Councillor responds to concerns over new active travel scheme in Grantham town centre
Works to implement a “radical” overhaul of Grantham town centre will begin in a matter of weeks – with both support and criticism for the plans being voiced.
After reviewing a public consultation from earlier this year, Lincolnshire County Council last week confirmed it would introduce a ‘Grantham active travel zone’, a temporary travel scheme which will see multiple changes to town centre roads, including making High Street one way.
The scheme will initially be in place for up to 18 months.
It will see the left-hand lane heading north on St Peter’s Hill – outside the entrance to the Isaac Newton Shopping Centre – removed to create a wider footway and area for outdoor retail/hospitality.
A ‘sustainable travel corridor’ will allow buses and cycles to progress southbound on High Street – towards St Peter’s Hill – but not other traffic, which will be prevented from going further than Watergate car park. Northbound traffic heading towards Watergate will continue as normal.
The ‘sustainable travel corridor’ will continue southbound on St Peter’s Hill as far as Belvoir estate agents.
Lastly, the junction of Guildhall Street and High Street will be closed, but deliveries will be allowed.
The news has sparked a mixture of support and condemnation on the Journal’s letter pages, website and social media channels.
Janet Aspland commented on Facebook: “Brilliant idea, I totally agree with it. So much easier for pedestrians.”
Cheryl Johnson said: “Great idea. Also add in parking zones for the blue badge holders so the flow of traffic isn’t disrupted. Similar to what’s in Sleaford.”
However, others were less keen on the idea, with concerns raised over how the new one-way system will impact traffic on other roads in Grantham.
Journal reader Chris Hills said: “I am a bus driver in Grantham and the traffic is already a nightmare. This is going to cause total gridlock before long. It’s almost at that stage now.
“New cycle lanes are a waste of time and money, as the old [lanes] are not even used. I think this will make Grantham worse in the long run.”
On Facebook, Lesley Mees commented: “If you live on the Harlaxton side of town and need to cross to the other side, as I do regularly, it’s getting harder and harder. We will have the choice of going up Wharf Road or down Springfield Road. Both of which are a nightmare of traffic jams.”
Councillor Richard Davies, executive member for highways and transport at Lincolnshire County Council, spoke to the Journal about the plans and responded to concerns that traffic would be pushed on to roads such as Sankt Augustin Way as a result of the scheme.
He said: “It’s one of the reasons why we’re building a bypass, to get that traffic out of Grantham.”
Coun Davies confirmed that traffic levels and junctions will be monitored to see how people are driving round the town, and tweaks could be made to traffic light phasing to make traffic flow better.
He added: “That’s all part of this process.
“What the Government seems to be encouraging local authorities to do, and I’m a big supporter of it, is, frankly, try things, and I know across the country this kind of scheme has come in for some criticism.
“As somebody who was born and raised in Grantham and I’ve known the town most of my adult life, I know what will happen to the town, what will continue to happen to the town, if we don’t do something fairly radical about the town centre.
“But likewise, if aspects of it don’t work, then let’s not be afraid to change them, tweak them, try other things.”
Another concern raised by readers is that when the bypass is completed, fewer shoppers will come into Grantham and spend money in the town’s businesses, instead opting to shop at one of the two designer shopping outlets planned north and south of the town. The first is being built between Spittlegate Level and the A1, where a new junction is also being built as part of the town’s southern relief road. The second is a redevelopment of Downtown at Gonerby Moor.
Stephen Pearson, a resident of Long Bennington, said the developers of new outlet malls in the area “will be rubbing their hands with glee as the town centre becomes even less accessible”.
Coun Davies continued: “Sometimes people say, you lose passing trade. Don’t get me wrong, I think that argument was valid some time ago.
“I think the days of people driving around without any clear appreciation of where they’re going, and just calling in somewhere, are over.
“I think it will affect, for example, the petrol stations. I suspect less people will go into, for example, the Asda petrol station, because there won’t be as many cars passing, and I appreciate that. However, I think the overall benefit of not having as many cars in Grantham town centre as a result of the bypass, will far outweigh the disbenefit.
“English Heritage did quite an interesting report and they looked at Grantham High Street and, as they pointed out, it’s clogged with traffic, it’s not a pleasant environment to walk up and down, and we can’t then be surprised when people are choosing to go elsewhere to spend their money.
“All in all, it doesn’t make any sense that people who don’t want to be driving through Grantham, are forced to drive through Grantham.”
Another reader, Roger Stafford, who is a blue badge holder with limited walking ability, said the scheme showed “no consideration to the practicalities for any blue badge holder”.
Coun Davies said: “There are other places [blue badge holders] will be able to park.
“It isn’t going to be perhaps as convenient for those people as it is at the moment, but other towns have done this.
“I think what we need to be doing is looking at things like blue badge parking and, as and when and if problems develop, adjusting closures and lanes so that there is still capacity for people with limited mobility to get there, but I don’t think it’s going to be insurmountable and I don’t think it’s going to be a significant problem.”