WILTSHIRE Council has responded to criticisms of the People Friendly Streets project, saying it will bring “a positive change” to the city centre, and that it is “an opportunity to do something different”.
In addressing criticism of the plans, councillor Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Highways, says the plans “will make a positive change for visitors to the city centre”.
Cllr Wayman said: “This project is backed by Salisbury City Council and other partners in the city, and we were asked by them to make the city as car free as possible.
“We have been asked by the city’s representatives to implement this project and, along with the need to respond quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic to help the city’s recovery, this is why are we doing it now.
Other similar schemes around the country and abroad have seen positive increases on the number of visitors and shoppers, plus a reduction in shop vacancy rates. We hope for a similarly positive outcome for “Salisbury.”
Cllr Wayman goes on to say that People Friendly Salisbury is not a pedestrianisation project, but is about prioritising walking and cycling, “while also maintaining access for some vehicles, including emergency services, buses and coaches, taxis, Blue Badge holders, residents and deliveries to businesses.”
Cllr Wayman adds: “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people travel and will continue to do so – this is the opportunity to do something different for the city that will make a positive change for visitors to the city centre, and improve air quality in the People Friendly zone.
“People can still access all car parks in the city and make use of the park and rides; the project does not affect access to the city by car, but it does prevent cars from travelling through the city centre.”
In the letter reported by the Journal last week, seven Salisbury city councillors and the President of Salisbury Chamber of Commerce say the £1m needed to implement the scheme will be “better spent” working on a bypass or extending the operational hours of the park and ride.
In response to this, Cllr Wayman said: “A bypass is not currently on the Government’s radar, and even if it was it could not be realised for many years. But we have been asked by the city council to make the Salisbury as car free as possible now.
“We recognise the scheme’s potential impact on the A36, which is why we have sought the support of Highways England, which is responsible for the A36.
“Highways England supports the scheme and is working closely with us to monitor traffic flows on the A36 through the use of advanced monitoring technology, and we are also developing a contingency plan should there be a need to use it.
“We also know that there are much wider problems associated with the A36, and these require addressing in a more comprehensive way. Highways England is about to conduct a major review to consider the need for investment in the strategic road network through Wiltshire, between the M4 and the south coast, and we are working closely with them on this.
“The letter also mentions consultation – the scheme has been subject to consultation through the Central Area Framework, is undergoing consultation now, and will be subject to further consultation throughout the 18 months of the Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO).
“Finally, we also want to encourage people that make short car journeys across the city to walk or cycle where possible, and People Friendly Salisbury will help us to achieve that.”
To have your say on the scheme, go to wiltshire.gov.uk/salisbury-people-friendly-streets. The survey closes at 3pm, on Thursday, August 13, but people will also be able to comment and provide feedback on how the scheme is working throughout the 18 months of the ETRO.