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HENLEY town centre should be pedestrianised during the day, says an environmental campaign group.
Henley in Transition wants to ban drivers from Duke Street, Market Place and part of Bell Street up to its junction with New Street.
It says this would improve air quality in Duke Street, which has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide in South Oxfordshire.
The ban could be enforced with moveable barriers, which would be in place during office hours from Monday to Saturday and all day on Sundays and public holidays.
The barriers would open at night to allow deliveries but the speed limit would be reduced to 5mph.
The group stresses that the ban is only at the idea stage and wants to hear what residents and businesses think. It may stage a public exhibition.
It has also suggested turning Hart Street into a European-style piazza with a paved terrace by the crossroads at the western end.
To enable this, a clockwise circular one-way route would be marked out around the town centre with a 20mph speed limit.
Treasurer David McEwen said: “There would be winners and losers but that is the case with any one-way system. The main argument is that it keeps motorists on the move, which reduces pollution as stationary traffic produces more emissions.
“I think most people would be happy to take a few more minutes going around the system if they knew they weren’t going to run into any congestion around the corner.
“This is very much a work in progress and a long-term journey. I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime but it is very exciting and has a lot of potential.”
The draft Henley and Harpsden joint neighbourhood plan, currently under consultation, makes provision for some of the group’s recommendations.
It seeks to “increase pedestrian accessibility around the town... reviewing opportunities for shared surfaces on Duke Street and Bell Street which may be facilitated by an increased one-way system”.
Under the one-way system drivers entering Henley via Reading Road would turn left into Greys Road at the Duke Street junction, then right through the Greys Road car park.
A new road through the car park would be created, provisionally called Albert Road North.
Motorists would then emerge at the top of Market Place, proceed around the back of the town hall and along King’s Road before turning right into Northfield End and Bell Street and then left into New Street and River Side.
At the Red Lion Hotel they could turn right into the Hart Street piazza, which they would drive up and back down on the right-hand side. Signage and a flower bed or barrier would be put up to make the route clear and the speed limit would be 10mph.
Drivers emerging from Hart Street would only be able to turn right into Thames Side and not head straight across Henley Bridge but it would be possible to turn left on to the bridge from River Side.
Motorists would drive south along Thames Side and River Terrace, following the road round into Station Road before rejoining Reading Road.
The flower beds outside the Henley Standard offices would be kept as a barrier to divide traffic turning left towards Shiplake or right back towards the town centre.
Henley in Transition suggests removing all traffic lights to keep traffic moving and installing a series of pedestrian crossings further away from junctions.
A cycle lane would run around the entire one-way system. This would be on the right-hand side to allow cyclists to be seen by lorries.
Meanwhile, a bus shelter may be installed in Greys Road, Henley, between Sherwood Gardens and King James Way.
Members of the town council’s town and community committee discussed the idea but heard there was no funding available from Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.
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