Cirencester Market Place regeneration plans receive mixed public reaction
There was a mixed reaction yesterday when Cirencester Town Council unveiled its £1 million Market Place regeneration scheme.
If it were to receive the go-ahead, the radical redesign of the market town's focal point would see kerbs, clutter and traffic lights become a thing of the past and traffic reduced to a single carriageway on the south side of the road to open up a pedestrianised zone in front of the parish church of St John Baptist.
On the whole, visitors to the public exhibition at the Bingham Gallery in Dyer Street seemed receptive to the plans - which form part of the council's town centre regenearation scheme - but some still had their reservations.
"Many have been very positive about the planned improvements to materials and the reduction of traffic," said Martin Portus, lead designer of landscape architects Portus and Whitton LLP, who drew up the plans for the new-look Market Place. Martin, who lives and works in Cirencester, and is chairman of Cirencester Civic Society, continued: "These plans will create a public realm which can be used for the Charter Market and other events.
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"We've had dozens of visitors through the door, and we've received lots of testing questions from people concerned about traffic and parking in the Market Place, but generally the scheme appears to be very well supported."
While there were some very positive comments by visitors to the public exhibition, there were some for whom "the jury was still out".
"In some aspects it seems good," said one visitor. "However, if we can no longer turn right down Castle Street, we can't get to Waitrose."
But Alan Wright, who is registered blind, and his wife, Jean, thought it was "a great idea".
"If it makes the Market Place more accessible and better surfaced then we're all for it," said Alan. "However, for 30 years we've had different plans put forward, and none have come to fruition, so I'm viewing this latest proposal with a hint of cynicism."
Said Jean: "If the pedestrianisation helps the problem with A-boards, then I'm all for it.
"We're regular visitors to the Market Place, and I have to guide Alan around all the A-boards. When you're visually impaired it's almost impossible.
"And they don't only make life difficult for people with visual impairments. They restrict access for mums with buggies and people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters - sometimes we have to step into the road to negotiate our way around them, which isn't good. So we're hoping that pedestriansation of the Market Place will help alleviate the problem."
Should the proposal receive the go-ahead, most road routes will remain unaffected, but Castle Street will become one-way eastbound to encourage drivers to utilise the ring road around the town centre rather than cutting through.
It is currently unknown how long the project, led by CTC's newly-created Cirencester Development Trust, in partnership with Gloucestershire County Council and Cotswold District Council, will take to complete. And plans to minimise disruption are still being finalised.
"This project has been talked about for a very long time, and previous attempts have failed," said Martin Portus. "We, along with the town council and many other organisations, are looking forward to completing a very worthwhile scheme.
"After this public consultation we're hoping to go through the various feedback exercises with a view to a planning application being made before the end of the year.
"If the plans meet with the approval of residents, works are expected to start as soon as January 2014."
* Those who missed the opportunity to view the exhibition can go online at www.cirencester.gov.uk, where they can fill in an online questionnaire.