Suc­cess for town after route closed

Gloucestershire Echo - - LETTERS & OPINION - Coun­cil­lor An­drew Mckin­lay Up Hather­ley

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.

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