Wiltshire Publications

Pedestrianisation of the High Street to attract more shoppers?

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WESTBURY Town Council has begun discussions into pedestrianising the High Street, aiming to revive the shopping experience for residents and visitors to the town. 

The increase of empty shops in the town, including  the imminent closure of long-standing family business Kevin’s Menswear; who have been in the town for over 50 years, has caused Westbury Town Council to discuss ways in which they can revive the High Street. 

The area has seen a decrease of footfall in recent years, blamed primarily on changes in technology that allow people to shop online.  

Cllr Gordon King presented a motion to the town’s highways, planning and development committee on Monday 15th April to discuss the possibility of fully pedestrianising the High Street, a decision which will follow a public consultation.

He said, “Changes in technology including the internet mean that most residents either travel for their goods and services or order them directly online.

“Therefore, there is very little retail currently occurring on the High Street. Whilst the nature of the High Street is changing, it is not dead, it may be unwell but it can be revived.

“One way of initiating that revival is to improve both the attraction and footfall to the High Street by changing the nature of the space.

“Full pedestrianisation might enable the operation of summer artisan markets in the evening with entertainment and other innovative uses and attractions.

“Increasing footfall at any time of the day or evening could revitalise the market in the High Street. Such an initiative now would aid not hinder the neighbourhood planning process and provide real momentum for change.”

Cllr Ian Cunningham said, “Although we have had a problem in the High Street for a while, we do suddenly seem to have had a rash of businesses closing. We need to take a bigger look at what we can do to change this problem, a problem that many towns have, but seems to have suddenly accelerated in our town.”

Chris Newbury, speaking against the idea said, “This plan not only means that people will be unable to park outside of the businesses in the High Street, it would also mean that people would not be able to drive through the High Street to get beyond it to visit shops in Fore Street. The sad reality is that where people can’t park outside, shops die. 

“When the district council introduced the environment improvement to the market place, it made the Market Place more magnificent but it reduced the amount of parking spaces by more than a third but  as predicted, the One-Stop shop closed 2 or 3 months after the improvements. People could no longer go into the Market Place and be sure that there would be empty parking spaces, buy their things and slip away. 

“People aren’t willing to park in a car park, walk two or three minutes to get to the shops, so shops will not survive. I’m not saying all of the shops would close, but I think there are businesses there that would suffer quite a lot, in particular, the fast food business. 

“I realise that this is in an early stage and there will have to be a public consultation but I do believe it will cause a lot of protest, understandable protest, from a lot of the traders.”

However, Cllr Nick Pyne said, “I don’t think the parking is a serious issue, I think it will make the area a lot nicer. What we have to do is create an experience for people, a reason for people to come into the town and we cannot do that with the current parking. We need all the 20,000 people in the town to actually go into the High Street and use it – it’s all about getting the footfall.”