Pedestrian safety is vital
This week (Journal, September 3, p5), you report that The Strand development is now set to go ahead.
This week (Journal, September 3, p5), you report that The Strand development is now set to go ahead. Cllr Nicholas says that "Schemes like this cannot be implemented in isolation . . ." and yet a glance at Devon County Council's plans (see www.devon.gov.uk/exmouthstrand) will show that The Strand has been dealt with in isolation, ignoring its impact elsewhere in the town. DCC's 'consultation' has been widely applauded as a model exercise. Sadly, this conflicts with my own experience!
At the first public meeting, the Exmouth Residents' Association and the Exmouth Community Association presented a joint report to DCC, 'Planning the Pedestrianisation of the Strand, Rolle Street and Chapel Hill' (see www.exmouthplan.co.uk/strand). This report, the result of many years of research and debate, stressed the importance of restricting traffic in Rolle Street to buses and essential vehicles during shop opening hours.
It seems doubtful whether the report was even considered by DCC. When they produced their first three draft designs, we were amazed to find that none involved pedestrianisation of Rolle Street. In fact, all three options proposed increasing traffic flows alongside The Strand at a time when this might have been the main route to a giant ASDA superstore.
My attempts to persuade DCC to reconsider clearly made me unpopular and DCC declined all my subsequent requests for a meeting to explain why I felt so strongly on this issue.
Surprisingly DCC's recent announcement of their final plans for The Strand in your paper failed to show the Rolle Street end of The Strand. They also refer to '. . . improved, safer routes which link The Strand to other parts of the town centre . . .". We must assume that this does not apply to the stretch of Rolle Street connecting The Strand with the Magnolia Centre.
On the front page of the Journal, (September 3) more regeneration plans are mooted including "a new transport hub". Does no-one else see the incongruity between, on the one hand, encouraging the use of public transport and, on the other, treating the town centre as a major traffic thoroughfare for private vehicles?
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Surely in this day and age, we should not be planning our town around the motor vehicle. The Summary Manual for Streets issued by the Department of Transport in 2007 says: "Meeting the needs of car drivers should not be to the detriment of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users." Allowing private vehicles in Rolle Street during shopping hours clearly conflicts with this advice.
The new proposals convert the one-way stretch of Rolle Street outside the Savoy into two-way, with buses stopping in both directions. On one side of the road we have the people in The Strand and the other we have several eateries, a toy shop and the Savoy cinema. The new two-way traffic system will make crossing the road far more dangerous than it is at the moment.
In the past councillors have campaigned for a shopmobility scheme in the town. Why, when we have the opportunity to transform our town for the benefit of the elderly and disabled, has all this rhetoric come to nothing? Why is their freedom of movement sacrificed in favour of the motor vehicle?
There are a host of other reasons why we should have grasped this opportunity to rid our town centre of traffic in the daytime. I shall only list a few:
l Health - benefits to asthma sufferers and those with lung related diseases. Recent research indicates that children, being shorter, are most at risk from vehicle pollutants.
l Noise and stress - we would all benefit from a relaxed, tranquil and stress free town centre, where the only noises come from people chatting in the open or taking part in some communal activities. The present plans include a "performance stage" backing on to Rolle Street with all its traffic noise. Hardly ideal!
l Loss of space - the change to a two-way system outside the Savoy will encroach upon land which would otherwise have been part of the pedestrianised area.
l Cyclists - encouraging more to come into our town centre when the route from Exeter is completed.
l Peak Oil - Transition Town Exmouth advocates that we should be designing our town in anticipation of less plentiful oil supplies in the future
At the end of the day, it all comes down to what our values are - what do we think is important in our town centre, people or cars? In the absence of a coherent strategy for the town, we seek to improve conditions for pedestrians in The Strand and, at the same time, allow vehicles to dominate the route from there to our other pedestrianised space, the Magnolia Centre.
There are lots of other issues I could raise like, why not make St Andrews Road one-way towards Chapel Hill to reduce the likelihood of accidents at the Imperial Road end; why not make Alexandra Terrace (from Chapel Hill up to the junction with Imperial Road) one-way towards the sea front, once The Strand is closed to traffic; why not make Beacon Place one-way into Chapel Hill, so that it is not used as a 'rat-run' to Salterton Road; why not make the Beacon one-way up the hill so that vehicles are not emerging against the main flow of traffic from Chapel Hill; why not reverse the flow in Queen Street so that taxis can use that route from the new rank when going to the Avenues or Littleham . . .etc.???
Many of these changes become desirable once The Strand is closed to traffic. Much of this, and more, was explained in the ignored ERA/ECA report.
Whilst I realise that it is too late to hope that anyone will act on any of these points, I will conclude by suggesting one tiny change to the plans that would radically improve the Rolle Street situation. It is not what we wanted, it is a compromise, but if we cannot have the full pedestrianisation, this would constitute a step in the right direction:
Recommendation: All traffic, with the exception of buses and emergency vehicles, travelling from the Salterton Road down Rolle Street should turn left up High Street and bypass the town centre via Alexandra Terrace and Imperial Road. The road outside the Savoy need then only cater for buses both ways and a single stream of traffic travelling towards the Salterton Road. The traffic along the whole of Rolle Street would be similarly reduced making it safer for pedestrians.
Exmouth Residents' Association.