Published on 20th December 2019
The county council’s cabinet today (20 December) has accepted the recommendation from its traffic regulation committee to abandon the trial Boots Corner closure and has agreed to re-open the road to through traffic.
Councillor Steve Jordan, leader at Cheltenham Borough Council said: ‘’We are clearly very disappointed with the outcome of the county council’s cabinet meeting today.
‘’We presented significant evidence to the traffic regulation committee to support the continued closure of Boots Corner, including a marked increase in pedestrian and cyclist movements, no adverse air quality impact, a significant increase in bus travel and a decline in overall traffic. It has also been noted that our high street has continued to attract investment with the arrival of some big brands and has less empty retail units than lots of other town centres, showing that it continues to punch above its weight.
‘’If the traffic has to return, the priority for both councils must be to retain the key benefits we have seen, with significantly more cyclists, pedestrians and bus users. Having attended the traffic regulation committee meeting earlier this week, one of the key acknowledgements made by committee members and objectors to the scheme was the issue of conflict between pedestrians and vehicles; particularly the speeds and number of additional vehicles which will be able to travel through Boots Corner is a serious concern .
‘’The new cycle racks introduced during the scheme each show how one car parking space can provide enough space for 10 bikes and the racks are often full. Equally the seating is incredibly well used and it would be a great shame to remove these popular elements of the scheme which support our climate change commitment.’’
Councillor Andrew McKinlay, the borough’s cabinet member for development and safety added: “I feel strongly that the trial closure had led to the most significant modal shift success ever achieved within the county with a significant reduction in carbon emissions.
‘’The outcome of today’s meeting will put these gains in jeopardy and potentially undermine the county council’s own ambition to collectively reduce Gloucestershire’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2030. It will mean that thousands of vehicles will now return to the town centre each day, severing the high street and potentially impacting on the ease by which people can walk, cycle and use public transport to freely move around the space.
‘‘We remain committed to putting people before traffic and the regeneration of Cheltenham was at the centre of Cheltenham Transport Plan. Recently the borough council commissioned an independent resident satisfaction survey and this revealed that walking, cycling and public transport ranked as a top 3 priority for residents, so the trial closure clearly chimed with local sentiment. The scheme was simply a stepping zone to greater modal shift and climate change delivery.
“Our priority is to continue with our wider programme of high street improvements, as well as implementing ‘Connecting Cheltenham’, our recently approved strategy for promoting environmentally-friendly transport in and around the town. We will reflect on the county decision and how best we support the health, vitality and economy of our town centre.”
The borough council will work with the county council to re-open Boots Corner and this will be communicated in due course.
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Evidence gathered throughout the duration of the 18 month trial included:
- Significant modal shift with Stagecoach claiming an additional 270,000 additional bus passengers per annum and better punctuality as a result of the trial;
- Cycling through Boots Corner itself up by 185% since the trial began
- Falling traffic flows in the town centre (20% reduction compared to 2008)
- No adverse air quality impact, in fact, a slow decline in NO₂ over several years
- Positive town centre performance from a footfall and investment perspective as cited by commercial contributors at the traffic regulation committee
- 7% increase in town visitors and 6% increase in overnight stays in the last 12 months (within the trial period)
- 2019 CBC residents survey independently undertaken that identified ‘promoting walking, cycling and public transport’ within residents top three priorities