Views to be sought on pedestrianisation
WHAT are your views on pedestrianising Wells High Street?
This is the question that Wells Chamber of Commerce & Tourism will be posing when it launches a survey of businesses in January.
“Is it time to look again at pedestrianisation? Is it time to look at traffic calming measures? Is it time to restrict traffic on market days? Or are we happy with the way it is?” said chamber chairman Robert Powell.
“We would like to open a debate in the interests of making Wells a better place.”
He said that the impetus for the move had come from the Wake Up Wells stakeholder conference when – in response to that group’s survey about Wells – it was revealed that a lot of people had expressed the wish to have less traffic in the High Street at busy times.
Chamber president Michael Johns said: “Whilst I understand that the idea of pedestrianisation is generally unpopular, I am not against the principle on the odd day such as market days and special days such as the food festival. If we had a summer Sunday market like the Frome Independent then the High Street would need to be pedestrianised as well.
“I think that it is very important that everyone is consulted on this as there is a concern that there will be a reduction in parking and churn of customers. On the other hand from a safety point of view there are a number of drivers who often drive too fast down the High Street and it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed.”
The chamber hopes to hold a meeting in the spring at which people will be able to express their views on an issue that is known to divide opinion.
Ian Jefferies, director of Visit by Coach, which works to bring more coach visitors to Wells, said: “It’s a bit of Brexit attitude, the city is split.
“I ask what is the main reason for pedestrianisation? To me, it’s to make a more enjoyable experience for the consumer, therefore increasing the stay and ultimately the spend. Just closing the roads I don’t see as the complete answer. I’m all for pedestrianisation, but other things must be put in place for it to be successful.
“I think a great starting place would be to have part-time pedestrianisation. I would love to see it in place on market days and the market extended down High Street. Make it something not to be missed. This doesn’t have to just be the same type of stalls and must certainly be working with the businesses that support the city all year round. Maybe offer the existing businesses space first. Get some entertainment in to complement the markets.
“I’d also like to see part-time pedestrianisation during the warmer months, maybe 2pm-7pm, and again get the businesses involved, bring the cafe and dining culture out into the streets, some entertainment etc. Let’s give people a reason to come to Wells when they have picked the kids up or come home from work. We must have a cohesive plan if we want it to succeed and I’m afraid just the mention of pedestrianisation will split the city down the middle.
“This can work and would benefit the businesses, the residents of Wells and the many visitors if all parties work together to achieve agreed aims.”
Mayor of Wells Councillor Celia Wride thinks that it is time pedestrianisation is looked at seriously. She said: “Personally I am so pleased that the chamber of commerce is surveying the thoughts of all local businesses about the possible closing of Sadler Street, the Market Place and the High Street generally or, at least, on market days, when the car parking facility is not in use anyway, so that visitors and locals alike can enjoy roaming the main streets of Wells freely without worrying about cars, buses or lorries.
“I personally have two main concerns with keeping the road open: the condition of the severely cracked and leaking Conduit, which might cause danger to pedestrians and road-users in the cold weather; underground tunnels criss-cross this part of the city, they might be in jeopardy, or cause danger to road-users with the increase of traffic, especially coaches that still set down and pick up at the Sadler Street bay.
“The Cathedral is a medieval site and should be protected and treated with due reverence. We need to encourage visitors to park and come in to see our sights – not drive through and pause to look through car windows before moving on. The Tower of Pisa was built two years before the Cathedral and no traffic gets anywhere near it.”