A county councillor has condemned plans to introduce a bus-only restriction on a major route into Preston – claiming that the city is being “closed off” to motorists.
Lancashire County Council is set to install a so-called “bus gate” on a stretch of Corporation Street to the north of Ringway – with the area being monitored by CCTV cameras like those used to enforce a similar feature on Fishergate in the city centre.
Once in place, only buses, Hackney taxis, cyclists and other authorised vehicles will be allowed to travel, in either direction, along the section of Corporation Street between Marsh Lane and Heatley Street.
The change is part of a wider project designed to transform the area around the northern part of Friargate and Ringway and encourage sustainable travel such as walking, cycling and use of public transport. It will also better connect UCLan to the city centre.
However, the £14.7m scheme – funded with cash secured from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund – will radically alter traffic flow in that part of Preston.
With Friargate set to be pedestrianised between Ringway and Marsh Lane – in order to create a spacious and largely traffic-free new public realm – the many buses that use the route will be diverted onto Corporation Street. The bus gate plan is designed to discourage use of that busy road as a through-route for general traffic.
County Hall says that it wants to make Preston a “vibrant and attractive destination”.
However, County Cllr Yousuf Motala, who represents the Preston City division on the authority, claims that the Corporation Street plan will cause more problems than it solves – and he questioned the wisdom of forcing traffic onto other outlying arterial routes, such as Water Lane and Strand Road and Aqueduct Street and North Road.
“The size of the detour is going to be unbelievable for people. And Aqueduct Street is not even that wide – does it have [the necessary] capacity?
“With all the developments going on, including Friargate being pedestrianised, it’s getting to a point where Preston is being closed off to people [wanting to do] any shopping.
“Businesses were already struggling because of Covid. Even the big businesses like Debenhams have shut down, as so much has gone online, and the smaller ones are finding it tough as well – especially family-run businesses in hospitality.
“They have only just got back on their feet and this kind of development is only going to create more difficulty [for them]. A lot of people are going to struggle just to get into town – it’s getting beyond a joke,” said County Cllr Motala.
The Labour politician – who has represented his division for 12 years – also expressed concern over plans to use cameras to enforce the bus gate, because of the notoriety of the system implemented on Fishergate.
The restriction on part of that road – between Mount Street and the southern section of Corporation Street – has sometimes generated more than £1m in fines in a single year since it was introduced in 2016. A traffic penalty tribunal ruling also saw thousands of payments reimbursed due to initial signage being deemed inadequate.
It is understood that the Corporation Street bus gate would not come into effect until April 2023 at the earliest, close to the the completion of the wider Ringway/Friargate project, on which work began earlier this month. The stretch of the route where it would be implemented is currently temporarily closed to all traffic to allow for the construction of new bus stops with raised boarding platforms to provide easy access for passengers.
However, Paul Tyrer – who has run St. John’s Carpets on Corporation Street for 37 years – says that the longer-term plans for the road could threaten his business by cutting off passing trade, even though his premises lie just outside the proposed bus gate area.
He also claims that many of the traffic changes in the vicinity are being driven by a misguided desire to put UCLan – and its recently-completed university square and shared space area – into “a bubble”. The veteran businessman is taking legal advice over the county council’s separate introduction earlier this year of a no loading restriction outside his shop.
“I’m not knocking the university, but unfortunately, it’s now taking over Preston. No disrespect to the students, but they’re not here for much of the year. .
“They are trying to ensure there is no traffic whatsoever anywhere near the university,” said Mr. Tyrer.
UCLan declined to comment on Mr. Tyrer’s suggestion.
However, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, Charlie Edwards, defended the transformation of the area.
“Our aim is to make Preston a vibrant and attractive destination where people can easily and safely access everything that is on offer in the city centre like shopping, dining and entertainment. This means that we need to improve our shopping areas to make them more enjoyable to visit as well as boosting connectivity by bus, rail and active travel such as cycling and walking.
“Like many modern and successful cities have done over recent years, our scheme has been designed in such a way that any traffic that is simply travelling through the city to another destination can take alternative existing arterial routes. This is designed to free up the road space for those who actually live, work or want to visit the city centre itself.
“Traffic will still be able to access the university campus and the car parks around the Friargate shopping area. But the bus gates are likely to discourage traffic using these roads as a through route.
“Cars displaced by the proposed bus gate will be directed, as before, to use the east and west of the university campus area to access Ringway. From there, they will be able to travel up Corporation Street (south of Ringway) to access the railway station and Fishergate Shopping Centre, or Fleet Street and Lune Street to access the St George’s Shopping Centre car park, as they do now,” County Clr Edwards said.
Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown said that the aim of the works was to make Preston “a healthier, greener and safer city to live, work and visit”.
“The attractive design, which has undergone a full consultation exercise, encourages the use of public transport, walking and cycling and in turn reduces congestion and air pollution, in a modern city centre environment.
“We are working in partnership with Lancashire County Council who are delivering the scheme to ensure it benefits everyone.”
A series of proposals about the changes to the Friargate , Ringway and Corporation Street area went out to public consultation back in March.
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