Success for town after route closed
IT is over twelve months since the start of the trial removal of through traffic from Boots Corner, and given the comments of MP Alex Chalk last week that it had been “Devastating for businesses”, readers could be forgiven for thinking that the town centre was in the midst of an economic meltdown. This is however far from the truth. The trial has two objectives: Firstly to reduce traffic in the town centre and promote the use of alternative forms of transport, and secondly to promote economic growth by improving linkages across the High Street and making the town centre more attractive for investors.
Evidence suggests that the closure has met the first objective.
Evidence collected independently indicates the following changes in travel patterns over the past twelve months including: A reduction in traffic going through Boots Corner of 85 per cent, an increase in pedestrians crossing the road of 120 per cent and an increase in cyclists of 190 per cent.
In addition to this air quality across the town centre has improved by an average of 8 per cent over the same period.
It is however on the second objective that Mr Chalk questions the schemes’ success.
It is well documented that John Lewis and the Brewery both invested in Cheltenham as a result of the commitment of the borough council to implement the Cheltenham Transport Plan.
The town has recently received a national award for its Night Time Economy from the Association of Town and City Managers. So why does Mr Chalk make the claim that he does?
Mr Chalk’s evidence is based on one survey conducted by the Cheltenham BID of its 531 members. A total of 28 (5 per cent) replied, 16 of which said that their businesses’ had been negatively affected by the Boots Corner trial.
The truth is some existing businesses have been negatively impacted by increased competition from the new businesses which have been attracted into the town centre.
This is in reality a sign of the overall economic strength of a town centre, which offers an increasingly wide range of retail and recreational choices to visitors.