Editorial assistant, Beth Doherty, took to the city centre to speak to local businesses and pedestrians about their thoughts on the project.
Overall, the response to the people-friendly streets project was positive. Businesses were excited by the opportunities that the scheme could create, especially a continental cafe culture with outdoor dining.
Dean Speer vice-chair of Salisbury BID, welcomed the move from the council.
“We hope the Experimental Traffic Regulation Order will enhance the city centre as a place to visit, shop and be in. It was very noticeable to those who did venture out during the lockdown what the centre was like without any traffic.
“One thing that is important about this process is that it will be flexible and experimental, reflecting the needs of occupiers and visitors. I think this is how things should be done rather than the old fashioned ‘one way or no way’ which takes forever. The world is a changed place and we need to reinvent ourselves quicker than ever.”
Susi Mason, the owner of Casa Fina, said now is ‘a great time for change’.
“We are already undergoing huge changes with coronavirus so I think now is the best time for something like this. Hopefully, it will increase the vibrancy of Salisbury. Cafés can spill out onto the streets and make a more vibrant, friendly city.
“People come into town for social reasons not just to shop, this could create a social space and increase general footfall.”
Rachel, from H R Tribbeck & Son on Bridge Street, believed the project was an opportunity for Salisbury to make some important changes.
“The project will help us achieve our environmental aims, reducing air pollution in the city. It will increase vibrancy, and help the hospitality sector expand their outside offer. The potential for street art could increase, giving visitors to Salisbury a unique experience.”
Andy, at Maul’s wine and cheese bar, had passionate ideas for after-work drinks in a people-friendly city.
“To pedestrianise Salisbury from 4pm is a very good idea. On sunny days, local workers will be encouraged to stay in the city for after-work drinks or a nice meal. It could create a great café culture in the city, where businessmen can have meetings and take their clients to bars and restaurants, showcasing the city.
“Salisbury has to take risks, if it works, brilliant! If it doesn’t, what have we lost? If we can be a carbon-neutral city, that will create media attention, and that will attract more people to Salisbury.”
Speaking to Salisbury pedestrians, some residents weren’t so positive, expressing concerns of accessibility.
Paul, at Dauwalders of Salisbury, has a large catchment area of customers who need vehicle access to his store.
“I am not very favourable, I am afraid: we have three businesses on Fisherton Street, all of which need vehicle access as we do deliveries. We also have a customer catchment area of more than 75 miles. I don’t understand the need for it, retail has to cope with coronavirus and I think this is a double whammy. Let’s see the dust settle first, then think about pedestrianisation.”
Charles, at Pritchett’s Family Butchers, has similar concerns since a delivery service has become vital to their business since the pandemic began.
“Since the pandemic started we have begun a home delivery service to keep our business going, and would be worried about access for our van to our shop. Regular fresh meat deliveries, which can be very heavy, mean vehicles require daily close access. Until the plans are released in more detail, we don’t want to be negative about it. However, if we can’t get the access we require, we would be forced to have to look away from Salisbury, which of course would be the last thing we would want to do.”
Morine Moore, a Salisbury resident, questions whether Salisbury is ready for the change.
“Salisbury is becoming quite dead and I think: ‘are we ready for it’? Pedestrianisation might put people off, especially people like me – I can’t walk that far so need to park in town. Salisbury also doesn’t have great bus links, and in some places, there is only a bus every few hours, I wouldn’t want to get stuck somewhere!”
Joanne Barnes lives in Wilton but often visits Salisbury for shopping. Being a blue badge holder, she is concerned about accessibility for wheel-chair users.
“It will increase safety for shoppers but I think full pedestrianisation is a step too far. It’s a concern for me as I have to make sure I have enough power in my electric chair to get back to the car. If parking is too far away that could be difficult.”
Jim Holmes, on the other hand, can see the positive impact it will have on the environment.
“I think it’s a very good idea – it’s a wake-up call for the environment and I hope they do more things like this. I believe they should concentrate on bikes, and cars put people off. Now is a great opportunity for change.”
Finally, we spoke to some Shaftesbury businesses, who already have a tempory pedestrian-only high street.
Vanessa, from Cole & Co Boutique, thought the changes could have a positive impact if they are done well.
“The signage used in Shaftesbury isn’t particularly friendly; it looks like there are roadworks going on, and I think, because they have put that on the roundabouts, it has made people think the high street isn’t open. Moving forward, it could promote a café culture which will bring more clients to Shaftesbury and will encourage people to stay for longer.”
David, from Shaftesbury Wines, has found new ways around his initial concerns.
“Initially, I was worried it would affect my business as bigger purchases are very heavy, (but) we have found ways around it. We either wheel it to their car, they come back after 4pm, or I deliver it. Normally I would oppose closing the road unnecessarily, but this decision is the right one as it has given people the confidence to come back into town. If it has affected trade, it has affected it positively.”