Sunday, 26 May 2013

Council sneeks proposal to close Chancery Lane to pedestrians into Square Route plans


While the latest news on Lancaster City Council's Square Root plans to revamp Lancaster city centre are great news for the town, supporting local business and other community efforts to boost it, there's a sting in the tail to the current plans to be discussed next week - the proposed closure of Chancery Lane, a centuries-old right of way between Market Square and Church Street.

Nestling in the papers for this week's upcoming Cabinet meeting on Tuesday is the suggestion to close Chancery Lane (PDF link), the ginnel beside TK-Max which connects Market Square with Church Street. Council papers state the gating of the thoroughfare is in repsonse to "a longstanding concern of the Police in terms of anti-social behaviour".

The proposal has provoked several objections, including one from the national organisation Living Streets, the national charity that stands up for pedestrians which campaigns for pedestrian facilities and street design, who have written a letter of objection to the City Council's Chief Executive Mark Cullinan.

"We promote safe, attractive and enjoyable streets where people want to walk," says former Lancaster resident Doctor Kevin Golding Williams in his letter. "Walking is a form of transport with multiple benefits, not least to our mental and physical wellbeing, and to the environment. The quality of the public realm is key to encouraging more people to walk, and in doing so, helps to revitalise our town centres.

"However, convenience is an equally important factor. The gating of Chancery Lane will remove a traffic-free, shortcut and reduce the character and permeability of pedestrian routes through the town centre."

Given that Chancery Lane has been a public right of way for centuries, dating back to medieveal times - people lived there in the last century -  it strikes us as odd that the Council have chosen not to highlight the proposal to gate the ginnel. There was no mention of it in last week's press briefing, for example.

It seems unlikely to us that this right of way causes more concern than other city centre ginnels when it comes to anti social behaviour - and if the Council and Police get their way on this one, what other short cuts might also be lost for pedestrians? The ginnel beside the Halifax on Penny Street, for example, where a student was mugged earlier this month?

"This is a really bad idea," argues former city councillor John Whitelegg, who is currently the national Green Party's Sustainable Development Spokesperson. "Alleyways and ginnels are an important part of the fabric of any town but especially so in an historic place like Lancaster and they should be presserved.

"A traffic-free walking route is also a really  good thing to have and plays a big part in encouraging people to walk.

"It goes without saying that all our alleyways need improving," he feels. "Better lighting, more patrols from PCSOs, opening up for cafe use where there is a space, public art etc. 

"The council say that the police are unhappy about anti-social behaviour in Chancery Lane, including drugs – but we need a plan of action to deal with that and one that does not involve closure.

"There is also a failure in logic with the closure/gating problem," he argues. "Car parks are often used for drug abuse and have been the location for muggings, sexual assaults and worse but I have not heard of a plan to close a car park on the argument that it would solve anti-social  behaviour problems.

"Closing Chancery Lane discriminates against pedestrians  and should be rejected."

View the Cabinet Meeting Papers which include more details on the Square Routes project

• Living Streets:

1999 excavations of Mitchells Brewery site on Church Street

1 comment:

bILLY pOOK said...

With a little TLC CHANCERY LANE can become aplace and a route to give respite to busy shoppers and others. It is a quiet place that has much history. To deny right of access would be sad.Drug dependants would only go somewhere else closing the lane would not solve that problem. T he more people that use it the safer it will. mUSICIANS/ARTISTS/WRITERS can all play their part in reclaiming this important city feature. give Chancery a chance...Billy Pook