The impact of enhancement works that begin in Keynsham town centre next month are becoming clearer with the publication of a traffic order this week revealing that not only will vehicles be banned from the High Street but the pavement on one side will also be closed, as will the cycle lane.
Since last summer the High Street has been closed to through traffic during the day for social distancing measures but now, as shops and businesses are open again following the long lockdown, they are facing months of upheaval on their doorstep and the timing is being called into question.
The first phase of improvements to the public space between Bath Hill and Charlton Road will “rejuvenate the town centre and attract locals and visitors back to the High Street”, according to B&NES Council’s website. The enhancements include footpath widening and resurfacing, better signage, cycling and bus stop facilities and new street furniture, streetlights, landscaping and trees.
A separate programme will follow, using £1.1m secured last year from the High Streets Heritage Action Zones fund from Historic England. Again some of the emerging ideas have sparked concern, including making a T- junction of the roundabout outside of St John’s Church.
The traffic order published by B&NES Council this week states: “Notice is given that Bath and North East Somerset Council in exercise of its powers under section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 intends to make an order to the effect of which will be to temporarily introduce a road closure to vehicles in that length of High Street, Keynsham from its junction with Charlton Road to its junction with Bath Hill, including the contraflow cycle lane.”
It also includes a temporary footpath closure the length of the High Street and Temple Street on the west side from the junction of Charlton Road to Rock Road.
“This order is required because works are being or are proposed to be executed on or near the road for Keynsham High Street public realm works by Bath & North East Somerset Council, operative from 10th May 2021, for a maximum period of 8 Months. The road will only be restricted as and when traffic signs are in position and may not be affected for the whole of the period but only for so long as is necessary to execute the works. This is anticipated to be completed by 30th November 2021.”
The alternative route being given is Charlton Road, Rock Road, Temple Street and Bath Hill.
Writing on Facebook this week, trader Deborah French had this message for B&NES: “Wow, I cannot believe as a business owner of Perfect Fit that you are doing this now, as if we haven’t suffered enough with closures due to government lockdown, surely you could have done this before the shops had reopened.
“This is just so frustrating to say the least, hopefully we will not lose customers due to these roadworks.”
Other comments include: “This will help the shops on the high street no end! Nice one Bath and North East Somerset Council, didn’t want to carry out these works when the shops have been closed during lockdown?”
As we reported in Issue 672 last month, anger has already been voiced about the lack of consultation with traders and the town council, including over the recent closure of the free car park behind St John’s Church which will be used as a yard for contractors during the works. The possibility of compensation for traders has also been raised with B&NES in light of the disruption ahead.
The town council has written to the person in charge of the project at B&NES Council, citing concerns about the lack of co-ordination and consultation, particularly about phase one. Phase two is understood to still be at a very early stage.
Next Wednesday is the annual town meeting and it has been billed as a chance for people to have their say on the future of the town centre but shortly before last night’s town council meeting, clerk Dr Cheryl Scott said she had learned that Historic England representatives would now not be coming to talk as the project is an initiative from the because of pre-election period known as purdah.
The clerk said she hopes that the B&NES project officer will still be speaking at the meeting and has asked Historic England to send slides of the information they feel can be released during purdah. As an “impartial” officer, she hopes to then give the first part of the presentation and when it moves to the open forum, any comments and questions can be passed on, and the council will publish responses.
Wednesday’s meeting starts at 7.30pm. For details on how to join visit the town council’s website.
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