Town Centre Pedestrianisation In Louth
May 10th 2021discussed in town council intermittently for years. This year however, the County Council have stepped in to propose a scheme that would include more extensive pedestrianisation than has been proposed before. It has generated a lot of discussion amongst residents.
ConsultationThe Active Travel Fund consultation launched on 19th March, and will run until 16th May. The timing of this was unfortunate because most of it took place during the local elections period, when people were distracted by other things. The consultation is available on Lincolnshire County Council's website.
The proposalsThe consultation document includes the following detail, but unfortunately no map:
Louth active town centre
This proposed scheme will see three measures implemented:
- The total closure of Cornmarket to all motor traffic and the removal of all on-street parking. This
would apply from the junctions of Mercer Row to Market Place and would provide dedicated space for
pedestrians and cyclists, as well as creating outdoor opportunities for traders and hospitality.
- The closures of Burnt Hill Lane at the junction of Queen Street, and the closure of Aswell Street at
the junction of Kidgate. This would provide an improved north/south link for pedestrians and cyclists in
a safe traffic free environment.
- The restriction of parking on Mercer Row from the junction with Upgate to the junction with Market
Place. This would provide the opportunity to improve the area for pedestrian and cyclist flow.
All closures and provision will be implemented by using high quality temporary infrastructure such as traffic planters.
The scheme will initially be temporary for between a year and 18 months. After this time a decision will be made after further engagement with local residents and organisations whether to maintain it, or elements of it.
A need for nuanceThis has been a hot topic on the doorstep which has interested many in Louth. It is linked to the recent introduction of "cafe culture" at the Cornmarket, which brings up some of the same issues.
If it is to be done it needs to be done carefully, reversibly, and with due regard to equalities and the needs of residents, and all business owners in the town centre. There needs to be nuance and forethought in designing an appropriate scheme. I'm not confident that the county council's current methods of consultation are up to that task.
In terms of equalities, we have already seen disabled parking bays lost due to what is happening in the Cornmarket, and that is seven days a week. The only concession to disabled access there is that the closure doesn't begin until 10am - but this isn't well publicised. It may also not suit some with disabilities that mean it takes longer than an hour to do some things.
One solution I would propose is that any pedestrianisation would not be seven days out of seven, because that would block access to banks and other town centre amenities to those disabled people who rely on cars to get around.
The second issue is deliveries. Many delivery lorries come down Aswell Street, as well as other nearby roads, and these are clearly needed for the shops to operate. The design of Louth means that few of these shops have easy alternative access points. Behind Mercer Row, for instance, you have Kidgate running parallel, with its speed bumps to reduce traffic near the school. Pedestrianisation may end up displacing traffic to a road that is specifically designed to be low-traffic, which may cause safety issues.
There are fears amongst some traders that the loss of traffic will damage their businesses, which often run at narrow margins anyhow.
That said, I'm not completely against the idea. The town centre has been pedestrianised successfully for a number of events, which have been beneficial to the town, and have had a great atmosphere. Clearly there are benefits in terms of lower pollution and pedestrian safety; the proposal is popular amongst many Ludensians. The question becomes when to pedestrianise, and to what extent?
Burnt Hill Lane has a slightly different case for pedestrianisation, because it has narrow pavements and no on-street parking, and is not near enough to any shops to make that practical for deliveries or people with disabilities. The narrow pavements mean that whenever they are obstructed in any way, such as by bins or by dog mess, those with pushchairs or on wheelchairs are effectively pushed onto the road anyway.
However, I don't believe full-time general pedestrianisation is appropriate, due to the equalities issues and the other concerns I've outlined. I also don't believe it would be useful to extend it to Aswell Street. However, time-limited pedestrianisation may be worth trialling, provided it's only some days per week, and a thorough survey is done before and after - after 3 months, rather than after 18 as the county council is suggesting, to ensure it is working and to allow for modifications to the scheme.
The key is that the council needs to consult well, consult often, and not impose something that residents and traders don't want.