Lancaster City Council is examining the future management of traffic inside Lancaster’s pedestrian zone as part of its plans to revitalise the city centre and in response to concerns about the number of cars and lorries that are often seen using it - despite restrictions.
Very often, much of the zone - which was one of the first created in the UK - is now too heavily used by vehicles, to the detriment of people’s experience and safety, including shoppers and other centre users.
Now, as part of the Lancaster Square Routes project, the city council is looking at how traffic is managed within the centre with a view to potentially reducing vehicle access.
Informal consultation is currently taking place with a number of groups, including the Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, on what changes might be introduced.
This could potentially include restricting access to the pedestrian zone for delivery vehicles between 9.30am until 5pm. Currently the restriction is from 10.30am to 4.30pm.
As the Highways Authority, Lancashire County Council will make the final decision on any changes to the current traffic regulations, but both councils are working together to bring in the proposals.
“Lancaster was one of the first pedestrian zone in the country and set the benchmark which other city centres subsequently followed," says Councillor Janice Hanson, Cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration and planning. “However, we’ve now reached a stage where vehicle use within the zone has grown to such a level that it is potentially harming the centre’s future growth.
“We realise that there are a number of differing views and everyone will have an opinion on what, if any, changes should be made to the current regulations.
“That’s why we’re starting to consult informally because we’ll need to ensure that any proposals we bring forward are properly considered and strike the right balance.”
Initially any changes could be made through an 18 month Experimental Traffic Regulation Order, which would provide the opportunity to closely scrutinise and monitor their effectiveness. Feedback as to how changes are working would be sought from local people, businesses and organisations.
Before the end of the 18 months a decision on whether to adopt, amend or abandon the changes would be made by Lancashire County Council.
"Improving the way traffic is managed in Lancaster is an important step to create the right economic conditions for businesses, and make the city centre more attractive to shoppers and potential investors," argues County Councillor Tim Ashton, Cabinet member for highways and transport at Lancashire County Council.
"Both councils are working closely together on this project and will listen carefully to what people have to tell us about the experimental changes."
The first purpose-built pedestrian street in Europe was the Lijnbaan in Rotterdam, opened in 1953. The first pedestrianised shopping centre in the United Kingdom was in Stevenage in 1959, but there have been many variations on pedestrianised areas in city centres across Britain.
However as far as we are aware, the pedestrianised area in Lancaster City Centre was the first of its type ie made up of more than one street taken out of standard highway use. This is different to any area purpose built as a pedestrian area or where only one street has been switched into such.