OPEN AGAIN: Boots Corner closure scrapped by Gloucestershire County Council
By James Young | 20th December 2019
Boots Corner will be reopened to all traffic after Gloucestershire County Council unanimously approved the decision of its traffic regulation committee.
At today's council meeting, the county council - the lead authority for highways across the county - voted to scrap phase four of the Cheltenham Transport Plan.
The trial closure of Boots Corner to all traffic apart from buses and taxis has been in operation since the summer of 2018.
Cheltenham Borough Council were keen for the scheme to be made permanent, citing that public transport usage was on the up in the town as a result.
Speaking to Punchline in October, Cheltenham Borough Council leader Steve Jordan said the closure was "working well" and was "a sensible thing"
He added: "We have a climate emergency and we are encouraging modal shift to stop people from driving everywhere and to look at other forms of transport.
"This is an easier option of things to do compared to things that we would have to do, further down the road.
"From my point of view, if we can't make this work when we have a climate emergency and need to encourage that modal shift, then when can we make something stick?"
Ironically, the same cabinet meeting was due to discuss the county's response to the climate emergency and the bid to reduce Gloucestershire's carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2030.
Reacting today's decision Councillor Jordan, said: ''We are clearly very disappointed with the outcome of the county council's cabinet meeting.
''We presented significant evidence to the traffic regulation committee to support the continued closure of Boots Corner, including a marked increase in pedestrian and cyclist movements, no adverse air quality impact, a significant increase in bus travel and a decline in overall traffic.
"It has also been noted that our high street has continued to attract investment with the arrival of some big brands and has less empty retail units than lots of other town centres, showing that it continues to punch above its weight.
''If the traffic has to return, the priority for both councils must be to retain the key benefits we have seen, with significantly more cyclists, pedestrians and bus users."
Councillor Andrew McKinlay, the borough's cabinet member for development and safety added: "I feel strongly that the trial closure had led to the most significant modal shift success ever achieved within the county with a significant reduction in carbon emissions.
''The outcome of today's meeting will put these gains in jeopardy and potentially undermine the county council's own ambition to collectively reduce Gloucestershire's carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2030.
"It will mean that thousands of vehicles will now return to the town centre each day, severing the high street and potentially impacting on the ease by which people can walk, cycle and use public transport to freely move around the space.
''We remain committed to putting people before traffic and the regeneration of Cheltenham was at the centre of Cheltenham Transport Plan.
"Recently the borough council commissioned an independent resident satisfaction survey and this revealed that walking, cycling and public transport ranked as a top three priority for residents, so the trial closure clearly chimed with local sentiment.
"The scheme was simply a stepping zone to greater modal shift and climate change delivery.
"Our priority is to continue with our wider programme of high street improvements, as well as implementing 'Connecting Cheltenham', our recently approved strategy for promoting environmentally-friendly transport in and around the town.
"We will reflect on the county decision and how best we support the health, vitality and economy of our town centre."
The closure of Boots Corner was a key part of the borough council's vision for Cheltenham High Street that was unveiled in the summer.
That vision had a newly-designed public square, including a showpiece fountain in the area, but it will now have to be rethought.
The borough were keen to keep the closure in place, stating that the current road 'severs' the High Street into two distinct halves.
However, those pleas fell on deaf ears with the unanimous vote of the county council cabinet ensuring that the closure is no more and Boots Corner will be soon reopened to all traffic.
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