High Street Closures – Good or Bad?
As the UK starts to turn its attention to life after lockdown and businesses begin to reopen, the need to adhere to social distancing remains. For businesses to be able to comply with these measures more space will be needed. Proposals to encourage local authorities to close high streets and redirect traffic away from town centres have encountered opposition.
Current proposals aim to make social distancing easier and create more room for walking and cycling, as well as providing the extra space businesses need to continue trading. The challenge being that in our already crowded towns and cities the only additional space is on local roads, including high streets.
“Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO’s) are orders issued by local authorities allowing them to close roads and redirect traffic. The solution that the government has implemented has been to amend the current TRO procedure, streamlining the processes so councils can speedily apply TRO’s within a week of notification” says Leenamari.
“Traffic modelling, particularly in smaller towns and cities is complex, and the speed at which these orders can be issued will not allow adequate time for this. Therefore, traffic will be pushed into the surrounding residential areas creating increased congestion and problems for local businesses.
The safety of schoolchildren, the elderly and all vulnerable groups using narrow roads and pavements also needs to be considered. In some of the smaller towns around the West Midlands such as Kenilworth, Warwick and Knowle, these orders may not be practical at all.”
Leenamari continues: “Shopkeepers, food and hospitality businesses have been working hard to keep their businesses operating, many rely on large deliveries which will no longer be able to easily access business premises. Others who have moved to a click and collect service, and restaurants and pubs who have diversified to deliver food or become a takeaway, may have to close again if vehicles are banned from the High Street.”
Creating a balance
“Careful consideration needs to be given regarding the use of TRO’s to ensure they are not detrimental to local residents and businesses. If the traffic can’t get to the towns and cities due to poor traffic management, that could potentially be more detrimental for businesses and in turn the wider economy than the issue around lack of space.
Of course, safety needs to be paramount, but councils should look at creating a flexible hybrid solution which benefits all involved. This could be implementing temporary closures during busy times such as peak shopping hours and weekends, implementing a one-way system or using car parking space to create wider footpaths.”
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