Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pedestrianise Town Centre?

(This taken from Ian Lowson's posting on Community Centre exhibition topic)
Ian Lowson said:
In view of the fact that 187 comments out of 699 referred to Transport. I would like to revive a suggestion of mine dating back to September 2002, which was at that time totally ignored by the Mayor and members of the Town Council with the honourable exception of Hilary O'Donovan, who expressed keen interest. This proposal was admittedly of such a broad and sweeping kind, as almost to invite easy dismissal, but I wish to reiterate it in the context of the proposed Community facility to be discussed July 8-15, since it is in essence no greater in scope than other proposals on the board. So what follows is a brief summary of the project:

CONSTRUCTION OF UNDERGROUND COACH AND CAR PARK TO ALLOW PEDESTRIANIZATIN OF TOWN CENTRE. 1) Seek funding (e.g. National Lottery, Millenial Commission, English Heritage, Dorset County Council, European Commission) for construction of a concealed, grass-covered multi-storey coach and car park to replace the present Victorian Avenue open parking area. 2) The Site of the underground Coach and Car Park would be the Recreation Ground along the seafront from Horsecliffe Lane to Victoria Avenue. Excavate the Recreation Ground area to a depth of 2-3 storeys. Create ramp exit and entrance for vehicles at the end of Victoria Avenue using existing lanes. (a secondary entrance/exit for vehicles is possible in Horsecliffe Lane for the use of Swanage residents, to replace the present Resident's Car Park and return it to recreation uses). The construction would require state-of-the-art tunnelling and excavation techniques that are minimally invasive, such as the Bentonite system, used to create the underpass at Hyde Park Corner and the entire Milan underground network. (This system is now generally used in much trafficked areas, allowing minimal interruption of town and tourist services). 3)In the excavated area, build a multi-storey carpark for upwards of 400 cars and coaches. Turf it over to restore appearance as a present (plant trees and shrubs! Such resurfacing over carparks already exists in several cities, e.g. Hyde Park in London, Jardins des Tuileries in Paris, Coach Stations in Madrid, Verona, etc.) 4) Create passenger exits at southern end, near the Mowlem, to pedestrianized esplanade and town centre (Mermond Place and the former beach-shelter area could provide such exits) 5) Pedestrianize Station Road and Institute Road (this would assume emergency access for taxis, SITA, ambulances, delivery vehicles, etc. along a single-lane central walkway, and early-moring deliveries to shops in these two roads) It would also entail the reversion of Kings Road East to two-way traffic to allow vehicular access to the south part of Swanage. Circulation should be enormously reduced by the virtual elimination of touristic traffic). 6) Redevelop the vacated Victoria Avenue Car Park as affordable housing for Swanage residents, perhaps combined with a community recreation facility and Pool as envisaged in the Community Plan.

ADVANTAGES OF THIS SCHEME: 1)Reduction of traffic in the town centre due to partial pedestrianization of shopping centre, as well as the esplanade from Victoria Avenue to Mowlem. 2) Displacement of the bleak and unsightly edge-of-town car park off Victoria Avenue to a more convenient, central location that is nevertheless concealed and landscaped. 3)Creation of under-cover parking for residents and visitors and long-term parking for owners of second homes in Swanage, producing a steady revenue for the Town. 4) The underground Coach and Car Park would require services, such as toilets. cafes and restaurants, which could also be accessible from Shore Road. This stretch of beachfront would evolve into a true landscaped esplanade, free of traffic as far as Victoria Avenue. 5) The two main approaches to the town - cars from Studland Ferry and coaches from Wareham would converge conveniently at the new Parking, providing easy accesss to the beach and town centre for passengers.

PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES OF THE ScHEME - NONE, I THINK, INSUPERABLE: 1) Construction difficulties - terrain,geology, erosion, ventilation, drainage, disruption of traffic and tourism. 2) Resistance to pedestrianization, inconvenience to residents and shops, conservative attitudes and environmental concerns. 3) Dependence on outside funding. 4) Maintenance problems. Afterword: Schemes of this kind are usually associated with richer and more populous towns than Swanage. But you will find many such schemes brought to successful fruition in medium-size seaside towns throughout Europe, especially in France (e.g. Monte Carlo) and Italy (e.g. San Remo). It's chiefly lack of imagination rather than lack of resources that prevents the adoption of such plans in England. Ian Lowson


Anonymous said...

Other schemes which bit the dust in the late 60's early 70's which deserve to be revived were the "relief" road from Coombe/Gully to the then youthful Durlston Country Park, this would facilitate access to the hospital without going through the town centre, also the scheme to use Northbrook Road as the main route to/from Studland. I would also throw in upgrading, in a very sympathetic way, the Rempstone road to Corfe Castle which could act as a sort of "Corfe Castle By- Pass" admittedly the quarry traffic would still have to go through the village but this traffic is much diminished from the 60@s & 70@s.

Anonymous said...

The Town needs to make a fundamental decision first as to what sort of tourism is wanted (if any by the way things are run). We also have to decide if the level of change necessary to attract enough people to support such a major development is sustainable.
I hope so…

Anonymous said...

Its difficult to see how a car park under the rec would reduce traffic in Station Road. Perhaps bigger and better signposting to the Victoria Avenue car park from Shore Rd and at the traffic lights would help. Is this really ant better than making the Victoria Avenue car park an underground one and building houses over it?

Routing traffic down Northbrook Road has been left on the back burner for years. The problem is the narrow lane and sharp bends at the top end. I recall that DCC were hoping to get whoever developed the Grammar School site to pay for road improvements. Perhaps they could find the money fom elsewhere. There could be a roundabout at the Northbrook Road/Victoria Avenue junction with an entrance directly into the car park and a very large sign saying "parking for town centre and beach". This would siphon off a high proportion of the traffic. Come to think of it they could put that notice up now.

Keith Roker

Anonymous said...

Cock-eyed idea for me! has no chance of getting off the planning board.
Dancing Ledge.

Anonymous said...

The build-up of traffic through Station and Institute Roads is constantly increasing and must soon reach congestion point. IInstitute Road is also increasingly dangerous and uncrossable at various points in and even out of season. So pedestrianisation is inevitable in the long run and also socially desirable. A major tourist and residential car park at the approaches to the town would in fact considerably reduce traffic on Station Road, because a high percentage of current traffic is exploratory,(looking for parking or getting nearer the beaches/centre) in a oneway system.It is true that an enlarged carpark on Victoria Avenue would help, but an underground one (in that flood area) could not hold many more vehicles than at present.
My proposal for a two- or three-storey underground carpark beneath the rec, preserving and enhancing the amenities of the rec, has the advantages of size and centrality. The idea is certainly radical but not "cockeyed". Just because Planning spends most of its time changing licensing hours and approving garages does not mean that it can or should ignore the bigger picture.