SALISBURY city centre is set to be cut off to all through-traffic from September, as Wiltshire Council looks to introduce ‘People Friendly Streets’ to the city.
Using an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO), the council is to trial closing the city centre to all through-traffic, only allowing access to buses and taxis, as well as access for residents, deliveries, and to car parks.
In previous plans revealed to the Journal the city council had asked Wiltshire Council to “be bold in its approach to make the city as car free as possible”.
Using the ETRO will mean schemes can be implemented quickly, and changes can then be made based on feedback given to the council.
Leader of Wiltshire Council, Councillor Phillip Whitehead, said: “This is a unique opportunity to make changes to the city, with traffic in the city low.
“This was always something we were looking at through the Central Area Framework, but we have an opportunity to implement these measures now.
“We want to implement and monitor now, instead of modelling then implementing.
“This will allow delivery in weeks instead of months or years.”
An Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) survey undertaken in September 2019 showed that 80 per cent of all traffic in the city are cars, with the busiest entry and exit points at Exeter Street, St Paul’s Roundabout and Churchfield’s Road.
It also found that nearly 9 in 10 cars start and end their journey outside the A36, and that half of all weekday traffic is within the A36 for less than 15 minutes indicating through traffic.
Having studied other cities such as Durham, Ghent in Belgium, and Barcelona, the council has decided to trail closing the city centre completely to through traffic, allowing only buses and taxis, and access for residents or for car parks.
The council says its research suggests that “well-planned improvements to public spaces can boost footfall and trading by up to 40 per cent”, and says when a similar scheme was implemented in Belgium, the city saw a 17 per cent increase in restaurant and bar start-ups in the first year.
The proposed implementation is for early September, and will last for 18 months. There will be an ongoing consultation process, with the chance for members of the public to give feedback to the council or the Journal throughout.
The council says it is currently developing the scheme’s exact details, and that the plan could reduce traffic in the city by a third, as well as providing retail and tourism benefits.
Through these changes, the council is hoping to promote more cycling, walking and the use of park and rides in the city.
The leader of Salisbury City Council, Councillor Jeremy Nettle said: “This is a huge opportunity to trial something very different in the city as the city re-opens after coronavirus.
“There may well be problems that need to be faced, particularly around the displacement of traffic on to the ring road, and potential ‘rat-runs’. However, I am encouraged that this is an experimental trial that enables tweaks and adjustments, whilst potentially radically improving pedestrianisation and air quality in our beautiful city.
“I firmly believe we need to take advantage of this ‘once-in-a-life time’ opportunity and together make it work for the city. I have to see more details of the scheme, and look forward to having the chance to give feedback and would encourage others to do so too.”
Dean Speer, vice chairman of Salisbury BID and Partner of Myddelton & Major, said: “This ambitious plan could really transform the city centre and make Salisbury become a destination of choice. Whilst consumer habits are unsettled due to the pandemic, this is an opportunity to be bold and deliver pioneering plans to help the city recover and allow businesses to flourish.
“This is a crucial time for the economy as businesses reopen in a phased manner. It’s important that these plans are implemented now, before the busy Christmas trading period, to ensure consumers feel safe and have the confidence to return to Salisbury to support our businesses.
“We recognise there may be some initial challenges with the plans as different stakeholder needs are considered, and we need to ensure small businesses are still accessible for deliveries, however the plans could be transformational for Salisbury, so we’re encouraging businesses to be open-minded to the change.
“Businesses will need to engage with the consultation and throughout the project to ensure it is effective and a success. The regulations Wiltshire Council propose to use allow flexibility, so there will be opportunities to change and adapt the scheme once it has been working and the results can be seen.
“We welcome this innovative plan from Wiltshire Council and the BID is looking forward to representing city centre businesses and championing their needs throughout the project.”