FLEET HIGH STREET PEDESTRIANISATION
We live in strange times where the old idea of normal life seems to be a distant memory, while masks and social distancing now form part of our everyday routine. The retail sector has been one of the hardest hit areas in the covid crisis and the affect this has had on our dwindling High Street has led to decreased footfall as people stay at home and shun public spaces.
There have been many changes in our local shops to try and increase public safety, with social distancing measures and various precautions throughout the buildings. There have also been barriers installed and reduced parking spaces on the High Street to help offer a safer and wider travel route. As with every change, this has had its share of people who both love and hate the steps taken but with business struggling to survive and government regulations to follow, it’s a tough call all round.
Unique times call for unique measures and so, as previously reported, the decision has been taken to temporarily pedestrianise part of the High Street. This will allow a wider area for people to move around and hopefully increase the confidence of those who still feel unsure about venturing out to make purchases. The pedestrianisation comes into force this coming Monday 27th July with the timing being very close to the new government regulations for face masks to be worn inside (but not outside) shops. On a positive note, this could allow those wearing a mask to have the space to remove it safely outside and have a break from something which some may find unfamiliar and uncomfortable, while still keeping to social distancing regulations.
Below: Social distancing measures began back in June when parking bays were shut off to allow wider pavement access.
Hart District Council stated:
“Central government has advised local authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that town centre road layouts enable social distancing where this is possible. There is a need to help to minimise the risk of infection and to support our businesses by helping them to trade safely. Public Health is the over-riding concern.
The temporary order in Fleet is intended to help town centre businesses and shoppers to comply with social distancing guidance as it will make additional floorspace available for queuing outside of shops and businesses who choose to re-open. It will also help those who are accessing the town centre on foot or by bike to do so safely.”
Diversion routes will be in place for the closed roads with traffic and bus stops being relocated to Albert Street. As the situation did not allow for a consultation time, these measures will be monitored to see how they are progressing.
Below: Information about the changes from Hart District Council.
The idea of pedestrianisation isn’t a new one, in fact quite some time ago there were plans to do just that with roads purchased and ideas discussed that involved creating a bypass for the diverted traffic. That idea never came to pass though and gradually land was released and buildings restored, removing the chance of a scheme that would have avoided the traffic issues that it will now possibly face.
Below: The area of Fleet High Street that will be temporarily pedestrianised.
Could this move give the High Street a new lease of life? With more outside space this would give businesses the chance to apply for a licence to have outdoor seating and it also raises the possibility of holding local events and entertainment in the closed off area, attracting footfall and possibly bringing a spark of life to an area that has been decreasing in popularity for some time now.
Of course there will be those that don’t want to see this happen at all and who prefer the traditional layout without any changes, there will also be issues around traffic control and access. So what do you think – love it, hate it…or just not sure yet?
Remember the date – Monday 27th July – are you ready?
For more details see Hart District Council’s FAQ page.
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