Exploratory work has begun by South Somerset District Council (SSDC) to look at pedestrianising parts of Middle Street as part of the Yeovil Refresh project.
The Yeovil Refresh aims to improve the number and quality of public spaces in the town and strengthen the town’s retail centre.
The Refresh document highlights that although the top end of Middle Street experiences the highest levels of footfall in the town, it currently has the poorest provision for pedestrians with narrow pavements and space dominated by vehicle routes and parking.
As a result of these findings, SSDC has begun investigating the possibility of redressing the balance between pedestrians and cars in the town centre and creating a vehicle free area at the top of Middle Street through the use of a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO).
Before putting forward any designs, SSDC will be consulting extensively with businesses and users of the area and the feedback will be used to shape the plans which will then be submitted as part of the TRO application to Somerset County Council. The aim is to submit an application by the end of November. The County Council will then carry out their own additional public consultation exercise as part of the official application process.
The first part of the initial consultation with local business owners is underway, with the majority agreeing that creating a pedestrianised area will be of benefit to their business.
The road was shut on a temporary basis in December 2017 to enable a Christmas Market to take place. This was well received by businesses in the vicinity and they maintain that they would like to see the area used for more specialist markets throughout the year.
Specialist Markets and town centre events such as September’s Super Saturday and the Christmas Lantern Parade bring people in to the town and are an important element in increasing the vitality of the town centre.
The idea has also received support from residents and business who have witnessed cars mounting the pavement in Middle Street and car doors being opened in to unsuspecting shoppers causing safety concerns for visitors to the town.
A number of disabled bays would need to be relocated in the town centre to accommodate the possible changes, however, redefining the width of the pavements would see improvements for wheelchair users and parents with buggies and prams. Removing vehicles and other obstructions also benefits people with visual impairments who find it difficult to navigate the many obstacles and barriers, including parked cars.
SSDC will be working with Access for All solutions, a registered charity that aim to improve access for all, in order to identify the most appropriate place to relocate the accessible parking bays and to ensure that any proposed changes to surfacing contain safety measures that help assist blind and partially sighted visitors to the town.
Councillor Peter Gubbins, Executive Portfolio Holder for Yeovil Town Centre Regeneration and Chairman of Area South Committee said, “The District Council have now begun their exploratory work in to the proposed improvements to the top end of Middle Street which would have benefits for many people and the local businesses in that area. We will be working closely with groups such as Access for All solutions to minimise the impact for those who are disabled that park in this area currently, whilst also working with the businesses to enable necessary deliveries.
“All the work being undertaken as part of this project forms part of the wider Yeovil Refresh work which will help Yeovil become a town centre that will be a vibrant place to live, work, shop, learn and visit.”
The key messages from the Yeovil Refresh public consultation were that:
- You’d like to see the main high streets kept clean and better kept with nicer planters and other greenery, while keeping the streets from being too cluttered;
- You’d like to see improvements in vehicular and pedestrian access into the heart of Yeovil for locals and visitors;
- There are concerns about some vehicle access to parts of the town centre (in particular on Middle Street);
- You’d like to make the town’s open areas more appealing, using the space that is available to encourage visitors.
The feedback obtained during the consultation allowed for the priority projects to be set which included assessing further pedestrianisation of parts of Middle Street.