Saturday 16 December

Local Transport Group Report - October 2007 Update

Section 1 - Public Transport

1. Better bus services

Further cuts have been made despite protests to HCC and WSCC about reduced support for bus services and continued lack of consultation with users. First priority is to retain what we already have. HCC cuts to Route 67 save only about £3.30 per journey and do not meet any of their criteria.

2. Improved transport information

Two bus shelters exist at Station, but extra one needed in Lavant Street for Midhurst services. Shelters in The Square (2), Dragon Street (2), and The Causeway (2) now owned and maintained by Petersfield Town Council. One shelter at Tesco. Gwil Williams is exploring the possibility of shelter, stop post and boarding point at Broadway Park.

New bus stops with route numbers and destinations in the Square: stops at the Station and Tesco also have route numbers and timetables. A survey is needed of all local stops so that route numbers and timetables can be added where necessary. Adam Craig at HCC has agreed to supply details of HCC local bus stop database so that I can plot stops in Petersfield and photograph them, but I will need help for outlying areas such as Buriton, Stroud and Froxfield. I will also keep a check on the accuracy of route number and timetable displays. The old and broken stop flag on the north side of Station Road near Oaklands Road has been replaced at last.

3. Improved transport co-ordination

As the result of a meeting with Hilary Ayer and Gwil Williams, a possible Rail-Link bus service from the Waterlooville/Clanfield area to/from Petersfield Station for peak-hour rail commuters is being considered by South West Trains, who are also looking at possible station car park extensions.

4. Public transport to key facilities

EHDC Officers are seeking the views of the local Health Authority on a possible regular bus link to QA hospital (and other hospitals such as St. Mary’s?) for hospital outpatients and visitors. Although Route 38 has now been withdrawn, passengers for QA can change at Waterlooville from Route 37 to First Route 45a which goes into the hospital.

5. Accessible public transport

Fully accessible low-floor buses on Routes 94 and 95 are popular with shoppers with, especially those with children in pushchairs. WSCC decided not to pay higher tender price for low-floor buses on Routes 54 and 91/92/93.

Speed humps at Penns Place and Broadway Park cause difficulties with low-floor buses and discomfort to users. Gwil Williams will raise with EHDC Officers and Broadway Park owners.

There are no accessible taxis in Petersfield, and there is also need for taxi drivers to have disability awareness training - not just for wheelchair users. Hilary Ayer has met the local taxi drivers group, but EHDC seem reluctant to act on either request. There is no centralised taxi booking office or telephone in Petersfield. Six or more taxis may be waiting at the station, but none will answer ringing telephone because they do not want to share rental cost.

Section 2 - Car Parking

6. Car parks and street parking

We need to discuss EHDC proposals and policies on town car parks. Station car parks referred to in 3 above.

On-street parking is affected by the space available in town and station car parks, but some drivers – especially long parkers such as commuters and shop staff - will try to park free even if paid-for spaces are available, so dearer parking charges may make the situation worse. We need views of Highway authority and police.

Section 3 - Roads and Pavements

7. Improved pedestrian and cycling routes

We need to find out whether the local police are now monitoring broken and dangerous pavements and reporting to highway authority, and whether any action is being taken as a result. The unsatisfactory “courtesy crossings” may be affected by any pedestrianisation trial.

Is the new cycle route through the car park to the station satisfactory?

8. Vehicle delivery times

See 10 below.

9. Use of The Square

See 10 below

10. Pedestrianisation experiment

Following the great success of the Bank Holiday experiment when The Square and the High Street were closed to traffic and used for market stalls and tables and chairs for cafes and pubs, support has grown for some form of traffic free areas on a more frequent basis. The Town Character Group has taken the initiative on future use of The Square and the Retail & Business Group has become closely involved. However, a pedestrianisation trial for the High Street - as supported by 73% of Petersfield Tomorrow questionnaire respondents - has wider implications and still seems to be vigorously opposed by some shopkeepers, even though no specific proposals have been formulated.

The attached document sets out a range of options for a trial - all of which fall short of a complete road closure, at least in the initial stages – and I am trying to arrange a meeting with the relevant Officers from EHDC, Highway Authority and Police to discuss the statutory requirements so that all Groups concerned can have a full debate. I need some facts urgently as it is now 18 months since the questionnaire was completed.

There is no reason why these investigations and discussions should be further delayed, as no cost is involved. Nor does a trial scheme have any significant cost implications, as no major roadworks are envisaged. Because the word “pedestrianisation” is seen by some as a complete and permanent paving over of the High Street it seems impossible to have a rational debate until some realistic options are available.

Tony Shaw 10/10/07


PEDESTRIANISATION


1.Public Support


Nearly 600 people responded to the questionnaire attached to the document “Do you care about the future of your town” distributed to nearly 8,000 residents and businesses in Petersfield in March 2006.In response to the suggestion that “We need to experiment with a pedestrianisation scheme for the High Street” 286 (50%) “Strongly Agreed” and another 133 (23%) “Agreed”, giving a total of 73% in favour and 25% against, a ratio of 3 to 1.


In addition to the 563 responses, 180 (32%) added specific comments, which were summarised in a document dated 20th June 2006. These individual comments included 84 who were in favour of High Street pedestrianisation, 15 who suggested a one-way system, and 54 who were against, including 11 who were concerned about loss of trade.


Because I believed that the public responses to the questionnaire should not be ignored, I (perhaps unwisely) agreed to add another five questionnaire responses -“Car parks and street parking”, “Improved pedestrian and cycling routes”, “Vehicle delivery times”, “Use of The Square” and a possible “Pedestrianisation experiment” -to the remit of the Local Transport Group, of which I am chairman. Since then, the Town Character Group of Petersfield Tomorrow has taken over the Town Square comments and has organised the very successful event over the Bank Holiday weekend from 25th to 27th August 2007, when the High Street and The Square were completely closed to traffic from Chapel Street to Dragon Street. Although primarily designed to demonstrate how greater use could be made of The Square, it appears to have renewed support for some degree of pedestrianisation for both The Square and the High Street.


2.Reasons for a trial


At present the attractiveness of the High Street to visitors and shoppers is seriously undermined by moving traffic and parked vehicles. Both combine to discourage pedestrians from crossing the road to look in shops on the other side, while the noise, fumes and potential danger from passing vehicles (many of which do not need to use the High Street) detract from leisurely shopping. This is likely to be of the greatest disadvantage to the smaller specialist shops, which most residents are keen to encourage. The existing “courtesy crossings” now have no clearly visible road markings, and most drivers do not attempt to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross unless forced to do so by a pedestrian starting to cross. When vans and cars are parked on both sides of the road there are very limited sightlines for both drivers and pedestrians.


The aim of any experimental scheme is to make the High Street more attractive to local shoppers and visitors to Petersfield, thereby increasing trade and encouraging a diverse mix of individual shops.


Any experiment should preferably be comparatively easy and inexpensive to introduce, but be capable of expansion (in times or area of operation) if it proves to be a success. The needs of disabled people, delivery vehicles and buses/taxis need to be borne in mind.


If nothing is done the quite rapid increase in vehicular traffic and the growing tendency for drivers to ignore parking and waiting restrictions will make matters much worse in future.

3.A range of options


The questionnaire respondents clearly had a wide variety of views of what pedestrianisation meant. While some called for a complete traffic ban at all times with a paved pedestrian area for the whole of the High Street (and in some cases The Square too), there were concerns about access for disabled people and delivery vehicles and a fear that the High Street would be a “dead” area in the evenings.

Possible schemes might be:
a) Enforce existing parking restrictions at all times. This may require the use of yellow lines and “no entry” signs so that drivers cannot say that they had not seen the existing “no parking except in marked bays” signs on the edge of the restricted area. The “courtesy crossings” should be more clearly marked with coloured road surfaces and distinctive red/white bollards (as in Moggs Mead), possibly with “pedestrians crossing” signs. Heavy lorries should be banned.


Comment: This would not meet the demand for a pedestrianisation scheme and would not reduce through traffic or legal parking.

b) Introduce “traffic calming” measures. At present drivers can see down the whole length of the High Street, and regard it as a through road. Highway authorities are increasingly using visual features (such as tubs containing bushes) to indicate to drivers that they are in an area shared with pedestrians.


Comment: This would be difficult to implement on an experimental basis, and would not produce a pedestrianised area as requested by most respondents.


c) Introduce a “Pedestrian Zone”:
Either i) For the whole length of the High Street between Chapel Street and Dragon Street, or ii) From the west side of The Square to Dragon Street.


Either scheme could apply for a limited period (e.g. 10am to 4pm) and, if required, still permit “access”, loading/unloading, buses, taxis, etc, with appropriate signs indicating the days and times of operation.


Comment: Option ii) would retain vehicular access to the post office and library.


Schemes of this type appear to work well in small towns such as Totnes and Sherborne which have streets similar to Petersfield. They should not require extensive road works or signage, and could easily be modified if needed to cover additional days or revised hours of operation. In Guildford and other towns gates or physical barriers are used during operating periods, but these may not be necessary if the zone is strictly enforced.


d) Introduce a “one-way” system eastbound. Westbound through traffic diverted via College Street and Station Road.


Comment: This would eliminate the westbound through traffic and a two-way flow, but would do nothing to reduce traffic speeds and parking.


e) Introduce a “one-way” system westbound. Eastbound through traffic diverted via Station Road and Tor Way.


Comment: This would eliminate the eastbound through traffic and a two-way flow, but would do nothing to reduce traffic speeds and parking.

f) Close the High Street on north side of The Square, except for emergency vehicles and buses, and:

 


i) Introduce one-way traffic from Dragon Street via High Street (westbound), The Square (east side) and St. Peter’s Road - or vice versa; and


ii) Introduce one-way traffic from Chapel Street via The Square (west side) Sheep Street and The Spain. - Or vice versa.


iii) As an alternative to ii) above, traffic could be diverted from the west side of The Square via the south side and St. Peter’s Road.

Comment: This would eliminate most through traffic and link The Square with the north side of the High Street, retaining access to the post office and library, but would not reduce traffic speeds and parking.


g) Close the High Street between Ram’s Walk and Dragon Street, except for access, buses, etc.


Comment: This would eliminate through traffic, but there is no suitable turning point for vehicles at the Ram’s Walk end.


h) Close the High Street at east end, at Dragon Street junction, except for access, buses, etc.


Comment: This would eliminate through traffic and allow all but the largest vehicles to turn round in the High Street at the war memorial, but it would not eliminate parking or link The Square with other pavements.


i) Variations and alternatives can be produced to the above options, with parking restrictions and other features introduced as required.

4. Days and times of implementation


Days and times of implementation can be varied to suit the purpose of an experimental scheme.
One specified day a week from Monday to Saturday could be chosen initially, although Sunday would not be suitable as most smaller shops are closed and traffic is generally light. Limited hours of operation (e.g.10am to 4pm) would permit early deliveries and avoid some respondents’ fears that the street would be too quiet in the evenings.
Emergency vehicles and buses could be excluded from the traffic bans. Consideration should also be given to the needs of severely disabled people, although there is an excellent Shopmobility scheme and many shops and banks, etc. are not yet fully accessible to wheelchair users.
Apart from Woolworths, Boots and M&S, which have their own rear access to car parks, none of the other shops in the High Street sell heavy goods which customers need to carry directly to their cars. Access in a pedestrianised High Street would therefore be similar to Ram’s Walk.
It appears that the option which most closely meets the wishes of the 419 people (73%) supporting an experiment would be one of the alternatives in 3c above.


5. The next steps.

This document can form the basis for discussion with Petersfield Tomorrow’s Retail & Business Group and Town Character Group before submission to all other representative groups.
Before doing so, I am seeking an opportunity to discuss the legal and statutory processes needed to introduce an experimental scheme with the Highway Authority, District Council and the police. This will ensure that the full implications, and possible costs and other constraints, are known before full consultation takes place.


Tony Shaw
Chairman, Local Transport Group.
29/9/07