Petition - Keep Winchester's Road Closures

Response from Hampshire County Council, August 2021

Thank you for your e-mail of 20th July 2021 in which you enclosed copies of the petition calling on the County Council to not terminate the road closure schemes in Winchester until it is ready to install bigger better schemes. The petition has been checked and verified by Democratic & Member Services team following our established process, and they confirm that there have been 729 signatures.

The petition and the number of signatories to it was taken into account alongside the consultation results in decision-making by the County Council about the Winchester Active Travel temporary measures at the Decision Day on 29 July 2021. Winchester Business Improvement District made a deputation regarding the strong support from local businesses for the continued closure of Great Minster Street and The Square.

At the public Decision Day meeting, it was agreed that the temporary Active Travel Fund measures - introduced in June 2020 on North Walls, on Jewry Street and at the southern end of Hyde Street should be removed. The report referenced the intention to develop new proposals for North Walls that addressed issues and feedback raised in the February/ March 2021 consultation, including the need to avoid adverse impacts on the important Carfax junction, which would be subject to further consultation, and introduced at a later date once other complementary measures to reduce traffic have been implemented.

The temporary closure of Great Minster Street 7 days a week and The Square at weekends is a measure introduced in March of this year, after an experimental period of weekend closures, that has been led by Winchester City Council following extensive consultation and engagement. Whilst there is no longer a need for social distancing, it was clear at the Decision Day and from other correspondence received prior to the meeting that there is strong support from businesses and residents – including the Cathedral Streets Residents Association - to retain these closures in order to support businesses as they recover from the pandemic and prevent rat-running traffic via unsuitable narrow streets.

To this end, the City Council has decided to make Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders as part of a traffic scheme in Great Minster Street and The Square. A period for expressions of support or objection to these Orders to be made ended on 22 July 2021. The general effect of these Experimental Traffic Orders, which came into effect on 6 August 2021, will be to mirror the arrangements which have been in place since March. The scheme prohibits motor vehicle access to The Square via Great Minster Street through Traffic Regulation Order and physical measures.  The one-way system on Great Minster Street will be suspended to allow access to, and egress from, Great Minster Street via Symonds Street/Little Minster Street to premises on the affected section of Great Minster Street. A pedestrian and cycle zone is to be introduced on part of The Square and Great Minster Street operating at weekends from Saturday 10am to Sunday midnight. The existing loading bay within The Square hammerhead will be removed to improve safety. There are also some small changes to the waiting and loading restrictions and parking places in order to facilitate the scheme.

Much of the historic, narrow street pattern within central Winchester is physically unable to accommodate a large number of vehicles, and so regularly experiences queueing traffic. The Winchester Movement Strategy, was adopted in spring 2019 by both Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council, following extensive engagement and consultation which showed public support for the principle of traffic reduction. The Strategy recognises that without action, congestion and pollution within Winchester will worsen. Therefore, the Strategy is seeking to reduce the volume of traffic within the city centre. Achieving this will requires difficult choices to be made about how streets are managed, how road space is allocated and the cost and amount of car parking.

The Movement Strategy will look to invest in making better provision for journeys on foot and by bicycle (to help make these safer and more attractive options and provide a network of direct, continuous high quality routes) which is likely to see road space reallocated from vehicles, as well as measures to expand Park and Ride schemes and encourage more use of local bus services so that they can play a greater role to offer people travelling into Winchester an attractive alternative to journeys in a private car. Consultation is planned, on a number of Movement Strategy proposals, later in the year and we will be encouraging residents and businesses to contribute their views as part of this process.

Kind regards

Councillor Russell Oppenheimer
Executive Member for Highways Operations