Louth – Active Travel Scheme – Mercer Row and Cornmarket
On 17th October 2022 I attended St James’ Church in Louth for the public meeting organised by Louth Town Council at their invitation.
Having been introduced I gave an overview of the scheme including:
• The background of what the governmental position and purpose of Active Travel was
• The restrictions on the availability of funds, that they were only to be spent on temporary trail activities and that they could not be used for any other purpose such as general highway maintenance.
• The restrictive nature of the bidding process in terms of timeframes and that whilst we had undertaken an engagement exercise we accept that the foreshortened timeframe and that restriction the pandemic imposed meant that it was not as far reaching as could be undertaken now. I also referenced the figures concerning the general support for the principles of the scheme and that the original 4 proposals were reduced to two (Mercer Row and Cornmarket) with the protection of the Eastgate cycle lane and the scheme around Burnt Hill Lane and Aswell Street being removed following a review of the feedback during the initial engagement.
• That the schemes were trials and that they were delivered under experimental traffic regulation orders which could run for a maximum of 18 months.
• That for the seating units on Mercer Row the purpose had been to gauge the appetite for potential fundamental, permanent change to the balance between carriageway users and pedestrians by reviewing how a widened pedestrian area may enhance the streetscape with the inclusion of bespoke permanent planters and benches, appropriate to the conservation zone location alongside the potential in carriageway width and a reduction of speed limit.
• That the original intention was to have 4 such units adjacent to each other which would have had a different feel to the scheme instead of the two, disconnected, seemingly disparate units presented. This was unfortunate but was a reflection of the decision to replace the two disabled parking bays.
• That the seating units had now been removed and would not return to Mercer Row and would be used as appropriate elsewhere in the County.
• Highlighting that all future development of scheme will be managed differently and through the oversight of the newly inaugurated Louth Transport Board.
I then took questions and comments on the scheme. Whilst I have no formal notes or list of questions from the hosts, the Town Council, the following points were highlighted, often a number of times.
• The seating units were unpopular and were seen as incongruous in style and colour within the centre of Louth, especially given the conservation area status of the location. I explained that the colour was selected for visibility but conceded that the reclined seating version of the units was not perhaps appropriate.
• There were concerns regarding the overall cost of the units. I explained that this figure was for 4 units, not just the 2 present, and that they were reusable in other locations.
• There was concern that there was insufficient assessment of the location before installation inclusive of the affect of pollutants from traffic, the conservation zone concerns and general safety of the design of the units.
• The removal of the parking opportunities on Mercer Row was having a detrimental effect on trade both on Mercer Row and Cornmarket as the opportunity for short term parking was removed. The only other options were lengthier walks form pay only ELDC car parking sites. Traders were disappointed that there was no likelihood for compensation as a result of the scheme.
• The scheme was detrimental to those with mobility concerns, both those registered disabled and those not.
• There was some support for the concept (promotion of café culture) but that it wasn’t considered that the scheme would be successful in the winter months and there was already evidence that the Cornmarket was more often than not an empty space on non-market days.
• It was requested that the scheme be modified to be seasonal to reflect the needs of the area.
• The loss of cornmarket parking was having a detrimental effect on traders and in particular the bank which had seen a drop in walk in customers since the start of the scheme.
• The loss of parking was detrimental to those with mobility concerns (as per Mercer Row)
• There was a number of suggestions that the scheme should be abandoned immediately will a full reversion to the prior state.
• There was criticism of the engagement process which garnered 514 comments from a population of 17,000 (totalling 45,00 if inclusive of hinterland villages using Louth as a service centre) and that this was not representative enough or statistically strong enough to invoke a scheme with the effects it would have.
I will report this commentary at the forthcoming Louth Transport Board and recommend that further discussion be held with regards to Active Travel (Walking and Cycling) at a future meeting focussed specifically on the future options for the experimental scheme and the potential of other alternative schemes to promote walking and cycling in the Louth and surrounding area.
Further detail on the meeting will I believe be available on the Louth Town Council webpages in due course including the recent Town Council survey on the matter.
Head of Environment
Chris Miller (MIPROW)
Head of Environment
Lincolnshire County Council,
Newland, Lincoln, LN1 1YL
Director – Institute of Public Rights of Way & Access Management
Phone: 01522 782070 Ext: 53091
Teams: Chat with me