Traders took advantage of a recent public consultation regarding the renovation of Maristow Street to deliver a petition containing over 150 signatures, imploring council planners to leave the street as it is.
The improvement scheme is geared towards creating better pedestrian access for the street, which is lined with independent businesses. The three initial suggestions are in a similar vein to the recently completed improvement to the adjacent Market Place.
Kevin Peters of Westbury Racing said, “To make pedestrian access better you have to make car access worse, you can’t have both. All the traders down there really want it to stay as it is.
“Trade is already bad and we don’t want it to get any worse. Maristow Street is a drop-off point where people park to get their pizzas, or take-aways or have a bet or whatever and we don’t want to lose any more parking spaces.”
Staff on hand during the consultation process last Friday and Saturday stressed that none of the three plans on display in the mobile display unit showed any reduction of parking.
A spokesperson said, “We are trying to make it accessible for all, not just for vehicles.”
Kevin Peters said that a collective mistrust and resentment to development had been fostered during the recent Market Place renovations when local traders felt that their protests against the reduction of parking places in the scheme had been largely ignored. He said, “Hearing that they aren’t going to reduce any parking spaces doesn’t make me feel any better. They are talking about widening the pavements; how do you widen the pavements without narrowing the road?”
In Edward Street, the three preliminary proposals have included various degrees of pedestrianisation. These range from the low impact inclusion of a raised crossing allowing pedestrians to avoid narrow pavements, to the complete resurfacing of the road at the most extreme end of the scale. This option would result in a single level surface akin to the High Street, maximising space for cars and pedestrians alike, but would be likely to cause the most disruption for traders. “It makes the whole street more usable and more versatile than it is at the moment,” said Kirsty Wilson, project manager for developers Mouchel. “It means that there is a bit more space and more give and take because it opens it up more for people to use.”
Mrs Vivienne Hill of Frogmore Road said after seeing the proposals, “It would be nice to have it done and carry on from the Market Place. I quite like some of the options, as long as it doesn’t reduce too much parking.
“I think it’s more aesthetic rather than something that’s necessary for Westbury. It’s not an issue like the bypass. I’d rather be seeing the money used to develop the main roads. If we were to have had a bypass, it would have made Westbury a far more pleasant place to walk and safer.”
David Jenkins, president of Westbury Chamber of Commerce and a Wiltshire councillor said, “It will make it more attractive. It’s a continuation of what’s already been done in the Market Place and the Vision for Westbury which will go on into the High Street.
“We need to attract people to come in and make them want to shop here. I think this is good news and I think this is the start of something we have got to build on. We’ve got to put the loss of the bypass behind us and look to the future.
The brick seating area at the end of the High Street is also set for a make over and three designs were proposed, all aimed at making Maristow and Edward Streets more accessible to shoppers.
“The problem at the moment is that the rotunda acts as a ‘full stop’ to the High Street and it’s not hugely obvious that there is anything beyond there,” said Kirsty Wilson, project manager for developers Mouchel.
The initial proposals involved either removing the planter from the outside of the rotunda to create a pedestrian access, clearing the planter from the middle and putting wide steps down on to Edward Street, or removing it all together.
“They all have the benefits of opening up the space, it’s just how the space can be used afterwards,” said Kirsty Wilson. “These are basic ideas and we want to find as much feedback as possible to work out what people’s likes and dislikes are, to come up with the best scheme possible.”