Bid to pedestrianise St Albans city centre back on the agenda

PUBLISHED: 11:22 20 March 2009 | UPDATED: 14:01 06 May 2010

TENS of thousands of pounds are to be spent on pushing forward proposals which could lead to pedestrianisation of St Albans city centre. The move towards a ban on cars comes in the wake of the much-criticised £4-million safety and enhancement scheme which

TENS of thousands of pounds are to be spent on pushing forward proposals which could lead to pedestrianisation of St Albans city centre.

The move towards a ban on cars comes in the wake of the much-criticised £4-million safety and enhancement scheme which was based on claims that it would increase pedestrian safety in the city centre.

Any step to block traffic is sure to anger retailers and they have already voiced their dismay at the prospect of the main street being closed to all traffic except taxis and buses.

St Albans District Council has set aside £200,000 in its budget over the next two years as contingency funds to help the move towards pedestrianisation.

It is one of a number of proposals in the St Albans Urban Transport Plan which has been drawn up by Herts Highways to consider ways of easing bottlenecks and traffic problems in the city.

A budget - as yet undisclosed -- has been agreed by Herts County Council to develop schemes from the transport plan.

St Albans MP Anne Main was left in no doubt about the views of city centre retailers after a recent meeting she held with Chamber of Commerce members to discuss how they had been affected by the credit crunch.

Mrs Main said: "I mentioned the fact that pedestrianisation was back on the council's agenda again and they were horrified. They still remember the 'ghost town' effect when city-centre roads had to be shut to traffic as part of the safety and enhancement scheme."

Mrs Main maintained she was trying to keep an open mind on any future scheme but felt it could be "the final nail in the coffin" as far as the traders were concerned.

She pointed out that shopkeepers already felt the lack of parking signage and congestion in Holywell Hill and St Stephens Hill had driven shoppers away to other towns.

District council leader Robert Donald is in favour of pedestrianisation but he said nothing would be implemented until travel arrangements like mini park-and-ride schemes had been put in place.

He also said the council was working in partnership with bus firms, rail operators FCC and other interested agencies to upgrade the district's public transport.

The scheme would be trialled for at least three years. He added: "We believe it will be a great success. There is no agreed date yet but we will be seeking to help and support traders in any way we can."

Cllr Mike Ellis, portfolio holder for environment and sustainability, said: "We see this as the next step towards bringing more people into the city to boost our tourist economy. We will soon have budget hotels in the centre and with Butterfly World bringing in more tourists, an attractive pedestrianised centre could attract more shoppers. This is a business opportunity."

It is still unclear which sections of the centre would be shut to traffic but early signs point to the complete closure of Market Place - at least from 10am to 4pm - and the closure of St Peter's Street and possibly Chequer Street to all traffic except for taxis and buses.

Cllr Ellis added: "One of the prime motivators for the scheme was the positive response from the public to the partial closure during the St Peter's Street enhancement.

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