Wednesday, 30 September 2020

‘Pedestrianise street to make town attractive’

‘Pedestrianise street to make town attractive’

A PROPOSAL to transform Hart Street in Henley into a “parade” and pedestrianise Bell Street has been put forward to the town council.

Professor Ray Wild, who lives in Shiplake, is also proposing making New Street and Riverside two-way and making Hart Street one way.

He wants to remove as much traffic as possible from the town centre, create more pedestrian priority areas and places for eating and drinking outside and facilitate access to retail outlets.

Prof Wild, a retired mechanical engineer and former principal of the Henley Management College, now Henley Business School, says traffic would have the option of turning right at the traffic lights on Henley Bridge to head to Oxford, or left to go to Reading, as they do now.

He said: “Traffic can come over the bridge, turn right and go onto Riverside, round the bend and up New Street and that, I suspect, is the controversial bit. That road does already take two streams of traffic.

“I think that demonstrates that road is capable of taking two lanes of traffic, but I would remove some of the parking along the Kenton side.

“That then frees up Hart Street. It doesn’t need such a wide street to take one stream of traffic.”

He is proposing widening the pavement to seven metres on the same side as the Catherine Wheel pub to create a “parade” saying this would benefit businesses with more space for eating and drinking.

He also wants to make access to the riverfront safer from the street for pedestrians. Rather than people using the steps near St Mary’s Church, before crossing in front on the Red Lion Hotel and across Riverside, he wants to see a street level pavement running past the church and a larger reconfigured Red Lion forecourt.

Access to Bell Street by car would be for residents only and there would no through traffic.

He explained: “That is the busiest street in town, lots of people wandering around and the footpaths are very narrow. It’s quite common, if not in this country, but in places like France, which is undifferentiated between road and pavement. There would still be the need for some access but the priority would be pedestrians.

“It would be more attractive, it would be safer and at a time when the country is trying to resurrect the economy this would be a useful thing to do and it would benefit all of the businesses which are down there.”

He came up with the proposal after reading a story in last month’s Henley Standard about a proposed trial closure of Market Place to support retailers.

Members of the council’s town and committee agreed to consider shutting Market Place once a month despite criticism from some members and traders.

Prof Wild said he didn’t feel closing this road would be necessary with more space for pedestrians in both Bell Street and Hart Street under his plan.

He has sent his proposal to Mayor Ken Arlett, Deputy Mayor David Eggleton and town and community manager Helen Barnett.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, Henley’s representative on Oxfordshire County Council who chairs the town council’s transport strategy group, refused to comment.

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