The temporary closure of the western end of the Market Place is scheduled to continue until mid January 2022. The Town Council is working to make the closure permanent. The County Council, as highway authority, has agreed that the issue of sight lines at the Alfred Street/Mill Street junction is resolvable. At some stage this will involve some highway alterations in Mill Street, principally changes to the pavement kerb line. This acceptance by the County Council means that a permanent closure of the area is feasible. Highway consultants have now been employed to refocus on the permanent scheme and liaise with the County Council on developing proposals for it. It is suspected that this will take some months, although we should be able to get some tangible feedback within a matter of weeks.
This work will identify:
– what arrangements need to be made for taxis, delivery vehicles, emergency vehicles, mobility scooters/wheelchairs, disabled parking etc
– what is required with regard to changes to street signage and furniture
– what highway construction works will be required
– what changes to the legal order covering the area are required
It is envisaged that through this work any issues or concerns are resolved
The planters have replaced the barriers previously installed. Some concerns have been expressed regarding access for emergency vehicles. I have asked my deputy to liaise with the County Council concerning this and effect any changes needed. This is a matter that has been considered in the past for when fairs attend. The proximity that emergency vehicles could get to at either the Market Place or Church Street ends is well within the distances that are viewed acceptable under government guidelines.
The delivery access is something that the highway consultants have been asked to give priority to. We will be looking at what access arrangements have been made elsewhere in Oxfordshire in similar situations. The County Council are or have been introducing ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’ in other parts of Oxfordshire which will provide examples of what is deemed acceptable.
In theory it should be possible to restrict vehicle access to pedestrianised areas by signage rather than physical obstructions. Unfortunately there are some who will give little regard to signage or road markings. Currently there is no enforcement by the police of those that disregard parking or highway regulations. Responsibility for parking enforcement is being migrated from the police to the County Council. The County Council plan was that this be introduced by this November. We are awaiting an update on whether this is to be achieved. It is felt that enforcement will be a key factor in making the pedestrianisation a success.
The above represents the Town Council’s current plans for town centre pedestrianisation. The wider temporary scheme that was consulted upon last October will not proceed. There remains the ambition to increase the amount of pedestrian space in the town centre. This is something that is likely to be pursued in the future, but would not proceed without wide public consultation. The October survey indicated that there was significant support for more pedestrian space in the town centre.