Thu. Aug 11th, 2022

Isle of Wight Observer News

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‘People First Zone’ aims to shift priority from cars and vehicles to pedestrians and shoppers

3 min read

New plans that could shift the priority from cars and vehicles to pedestrians and shoppers in key areas of Newport will go before senior councillors next week.

‘People First Zone’ proposals have been drawn up to significantly improve the accessibility and appearance of the High Street and St James’ Square, with wider pavements and clear unobstructed walking routes.

If approved, this long-term vision for the historic town centre will be carried out in phases over the next few years as funding is secured.

The plans were developed by a community design panel, made up of design professionals, local residents, businesses and user groups, as part of the Newport High Street Heritage Action Zone programme to regenerate the High Street.

A Cabinet report published today (Wednesday) by the Isle of Wight Council explains how the plans aim to create a vibrant town centre where residents can move around freely and easily, with room to stop and browse in shop windows or socialise in a more people-friendly space.

It is hoped the changes, which include new paving and improved pedestrian crossing facilities, will help stimulate further private investment from building owners and local businesses, further enhancing the street scene.

The key proposals include:

  • wider pavements on both sides of the High Street;
  • narrowing the road to encourage drivers to slow down;
  • extending St James’ Square to provide new public space around the Victoria Memorial;
  • new areas of planting, more seating and cycle racks installed in clusters to minimise clutter;
  • three new dedicated parking days for disabled people on the High Street;
  • extending the existing High Street loading bay.

While some on-street parking will be lost under the plans, alternative parking is available close-by.

This includes almost 250 spaces at Sea Street, Lugley Street and Chapel Street/New Street where shoppers and visitors wishing to park for up to one hour can park for free.

More than 180 residents took part in a six-week public consultation on the plans with around 70 per cent stating more pedestrian space would make their experience of the town better.

Councillor Julie Jones-Evans, the Cabinet member for regeneration and business development, said: “This is part of a series of actions which aim to bring out the town’s rich heritage while looking to the future needs of a changing town centre, which needs to become a place full of diverse activities where people want to spend time. We want to create a public realm to be proud of.

“Our historic streets and squares are peppered with fantastic historic buildings and the surroundings should provide a suitable setting for them, while the health and environmental benefits of greening our town centre can’t be ignored.”

Councillor Phil Jordan, Cabinet member for transport and infrastructure, added: “As traffic has grown over the years, cars and other vehicles have gradually dominated the town centre’s streets.

“The environment for people walking around parts of the town could be improved and changes to the area will encourage residents and visitors to linger and spend time in the town.

“The People First Zone seeks to create an environment in the town centre that puts the needs of people first.”

The Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) is a partnership between Newport and Carisbrooke Community Council, Historic England and the Isle of Wight Council.

The HAZ forms part of Shaping Newport’s delivery programme, responding to the results of a 2018 place plan survey and report. That identified a lack of pride in the town, concerns about pedestrian safety and a need for enhancements to the public realm as key issues.

The report to be considered by Cabinet next Thursday (July 14) also seeks support for the council to work towards reducing the volume and size of vehicles using the High Street by developing alternative routes around the town centre.