Loughborough Town Centre Masterplan 2017
Charnwood Borough Council has published a draft Loughborough Town Centre Masterplan which sets out a number of proposals to develop the town centre, ostensibly to ensure its viability and vitality in the future.
They are now consulting on the document and the deadline for responses is September 22, 2017. You can have a say (please do) via an online survey (goo.gl/dQyPNF) or you can request a paper copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01509 634705.
Under Cycling / walking it proposes:
The complete draft of the plan can be found at goo.gl/yuL9zw.
The first objective listed is “To strengthen connections across the town centre to create a more legible network of streets and spaces linking key destinations and promoting active travel”.
The reference to active travel is to be welcomed but in terms of cycling this does not appear to be a major feature within the plan. The issue of lack of permeability for cyclists, due to their being banned from what is now a very large pedestrianised area for the major part of the day, is not addressed.
Cycle access will become even more restricted if the pedestrian network is expanded without allowing concessions for cycing.The Masterplan proposes a number of changes to the vehicular movement network including:
Section 2.4.1 VEHICULAR MOVEMENT mentions neither cycling nor the promotion of active travel although 2.4.5 CYCLE ROUTES states:
There are several cycle routes in and around the town centre providing a mix of on and off road facilities. These bring cyclists in to the heart of the town and to the pedestrian priority area at Market Place / Market Street. However, most of these cycle routes are unmarked and the network is fragmented and broken. For instance the cycle route from Epinal Way, through Loughborough College, does not connect to the cycle routes in the town centre via Westfield Drive and along the Wood Brook.
The cycle route to the station is located on Nottingham Road. This is a narrow route dominated by heavy traffic and does not create a pleasant environment for cyclists.
The Loughborough Town Centre Parking Strategy recommends that cycle parking in the town should be upgraded in places. It suggests that existing bike racks in Market Place should be replaced with covered stands and the parking along Market Street should be consolidated to an area in Ashby Square (where student cyclists would enter the town).
It would seem that while identifying some of the problems for cyclists, the plan offers no solutions, apart from some minor and irrelevant improvements to cycle parking.
Section 2.8 OPEN SPACES states:
The town’s main public space is Market Place. This is used to host outdoor markets and is the focus for the Loughborough Fair. When it is not used for these purposes the Market Place can feel quite empty.
Surely one way of reducing the emptiness of the Market Place would be to permit cycling on non market days?
No account seems to have been taken of the comment of the Planning Inspector who ruled in favour of the proposal to eliminate buses and cyclists (between 10am & 4pm) from the Market Place:
152. I note the concerns of the Council , however, they may wish to consider the evidence from LDCUC [120-124] which suggests that any risk is low and can be minimised by appropriate management. The Council may wish to examine whether any improvements can be made in respect of cycling provision. [Ed.our emphasis].
Section 4.1.8 CAR PARKING states that “Car parking is a crucial part of a town centre make up – and is necessary to ensure it is an accessible location.” It also points out that “surface parking is usually delivered at a cost of around £3,000 per space; multi storey spaces are usually in excess of £15,000 per space to deliver – and basement parking even more costly.”
Even when dealing with town centre residency, the emphasis is on car parking, with no reference to ensuring that residents have adequate and easily accessible cycle parking.
Listed under “Threats” in section 5.1 is “Car dependency - Failure to improve the pedestrian environment may increase car dependency and the need for increased car parking spaces.”
It is difficult to see how the current plan reduces car depency when all the emphasis appears to be on providing parking so that the town centre pedestrian shoppers can arrive as conveniently as possible by car.
Whilst promoting active travel is listed in the first objective, the only reference to it would appear to be in section 5.4.1 PUBLIC REALM IMPROVEMENTS:
“It is not intended to pedestrianise these areas but rather to increase the level of priority given to pedestrians and cyclists, create a more attractive and welcoming environment and reduce the impact of motor vehicles within these areas. This would help promote active travel and reduce reliance on the private car.”
Despite its first objective including the ambition of “promoting active travel”, the plan appears to fail to address the need to move away from people arriving in the town centre by car toward encouraging them to walk, cycle or use public transport. All these options help to reduce pollution and congestion. They also promote “active travel” which is almost certainly the best way of improving the health and fitness of the population, while saving the NHS vast sums in not having to deal with the diseases associated with indolence, largely caused by car dependency, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.