Traffic management can help Wisbech prosper
PUBLISHED: 11:29 02 November 2007 | UPDATED: 20:12 01 June 2010
THE chaos that is Wisbech Market Place makes our local government the laughing stock of the region. Everyone blames everyone else. Councillors boast that they have travelled as far afield as Ely and Spalding to view other schemes. But what have they lear
THE chaos that is Wisbech Market Place makes our local government the laughing stock of the region. Everyone blames everyone else. Councillors boast that they have travelled as far afield as Ely and Spalding to view other schemes. But what have they learned?
In Ely, on St George's Day, the brass band in the procession to the Cathedral had to break ranks to negotiate cars parked on their route. So much for the effectiveness of the Ely scheme.
Spalding is successful. All traffic is banned between 10am and 4pm. On the day I visited between 10:30am and 3pm only two delivery vehicles, two cars and one pedal cycle entered the Market Place. It is Spalding's commitment to strict enforcement of the regulations that makes the scheme succeed.
Both South Holland District Council and the Spalding police pride themselves on the effectiveness of their joint efforts. The council has three inspectors who rotate to cover the Market Place and the police use community support officers to enforce the rules. The result is almost total compliance.
When the Conservatives swept the board in the Fenland
elections one of their leaders promised they were determined to govern for all the people regardless of political persuasion.
Future management of access to Wisbech Market Place would seem to provide the ideal opportunity to prove the worth of that promise.
Every consultation with the populace demonstrates an overwhelming desire for a pedestrianised shopping area. At peak times, in the middle of the day, it is impossible to argue that this would not benefit everyone.
However, the disabled have grown used to having access. If pedestrianisation is limited to busy times, the disabled would have free access at quieter times when their shopping experience will be safer and more pleasant.
With careful planning it would be possible to allow evening parking, even overnight parking when there is no market next day. This would greatly benefit hotels and restaurants in the area. The Rose and Crown might even be inclined to open a restaurant.
Of course the problem of enforcement raises its expensive head. Fenland no longer funds traffic wardens and police resources are stretched so much that they are unwilling to take up the challenge.
If one looks further afield than Ely and Spalding there may be other traffic management schemes that would be perfect for Wisbech. Durham is one such scheme. Research by the Open University, comparing the Durham scheme with three others from around the UK and Europe, observes, "The Durham .....scheme appears remarkably successful since it achieves its major objective of reducing traffic levels...." (an 85 per cent reduction in vehicles and a 46 per cent reduction in delivery vehicles during the peak period).
Durham commissioned detailed research, involved numerous stakeholders and came up with the country's first congestion zone.
Vehicles can enter the peninsular area at all times but between 10am and 4pm they have to pay to leave. Exit is afforded by the lowering of a rising bollard, following payment. A bigger version of the one controlling access to the Co-op Pharmacy and Trinity Surgery at North Cambs hospital is used.
The scheme is self-policing, self-financing and manages the traffic effectively and at low cost. All this while maintaining retail turnover in the stores within the area.
Central government is keen to promote traffic management schemes and provides generous grants for their development and administration.
Additionally, Durham has availed itself of these grants to provide a park and ride service, called the Cathedral Bus. This is a disabled friendly midi bus service, which, for a one-off fare of 50p, allows one to hop on and off the bus all day.
Perhaps in Wisbech a park-and-ride system could be co-operatively incorporated into the developments on the edge of town such as the Stadium development, Sunday market, Fenland Park, B&Q/Rainbow, Tesco/Lidl, Asda or other future developments.
Fenland has shown its vision with the new iconic Waterfront Development. The long search for the right proposal has produced a scheme of outstanding quality that will regenerate this area and yield remarkable benefits to the town.
In any good scheme there should be something in it for everyone. It should not pander to the perceived advantage of small groups with vested interests. Surely this is the measure of good government.
I recommend a comprehensive traffic management scheme. It would be the salvation of central Wisbech and demonstrate the council's commitment to promoting shopping in Wisbech.