Passions stirred as 3 roads in Southsea and Portsmouth permanently closed to cars

Opinions over popular roads being pedestrianised have stirred passions across the city.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 7:41 am
Local members of the community and business owners making the most of the pedestrianised areas in Guildhall Walk. Picture: Alex Shute

Southsea hotspots Castle Road and Palmerston Road are set to remain closed to vehicles - as is Guildhall Walk - after Portsmouth City Council started the process of permanently shutting them to vehicles after consulting with residents and businesses.

But amid the proliferation of relaxed ‘continental culture’ where people enjoy al fresco dining and drinking, there has also been a darker consequence to the change of scene.

Simmering tensions about the change has reared itself amid bitter clashes - especially in Castle Road - where many were happy for the road to become permanently closed to traffic.

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Local members of the community and business owners making the most of the pedestrianised areas in Guildhall Walk. Picture: Alex Shute

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Resident Anne-Maria Skilling, 61, who has lived on the road for 25 years, said: ‘I’m happy for it to remain closed to traffic. The road is too small for two-way traffic especially with a school nearby and speeding motorists.

‘Without Covid the council wouldn’t have contemplated such a move so that is something good that has come out of the pandemic. The pavement was too narrow for social distancing.

‘We do now have annoying scooters and skateboarders racing down here and using it as a track and delivery drivers riding on mopeds too. But overall it is much better now.’

Guildhall Walk. Photos by Alex Shute

Trader Monica Barros, who owns Monis Londres, said: ‘I am 100 per cent happy because before it was too narrow with the traffic and pavement down here.

‘There were lorries and delivery vans going on to the kerb and a child even got knocked off their bike a few years ago.

‘I had to close my shop door because of the noise and fumes from the vehicles. It was horrible. It is better for business now with people walking past and buying stuff.’

Sarah Wade, who runs Southsea Hypnosis, agreed the pedestrianisation was for the better. ‘It’s so nice and more social. People stop and chat and we’ve got to know each other more,’ she said.

Guildhall Walk. Picture: Alex Shute

Chris Williams, owner of Bespoke Framing, said he did not mind either way with his business ‘not affected’, before adding: ‘One of the reasons I love to go to Europe is to sit on pavement roads and watch the world go by.’

Chris revealed there had been some ‘nasty arguments’ between some in the road and said the ‘abuse was disturbing’.

Resident Pam McGuiness, 67, who has lived in the road for 35 years, said she wanted the road to remain open to vehicles after being ‘blocked in’ by delivery vans.

‘The road should be opened back up. The council should have gone ahead with a hybrid scheme that would have stopped the road being used as a cut-through and would have kept traffic to a minimum,’ she said.

Palmerston Road in Southsea. Picture: Alex Shute

But Pam said she was pleased the council was now ‘listening’ to residents' concerns about vehicle access to properties at certain times. ‘If you are old or disabled you can’t park your car and walk miles,’ she said.

Mohammed Abrihim, owner of Barber Bros, said his business had been hurt by the closure to vehicles. ‘It is very bad,’ he said. ‘It is very quiet whereas before it was very busy.

‘There aren't more people walking down the street who come in. For me it is not good.’

Nicola Sutcliffe, who runs Morellos Cakery from her home, said the road would be ‘better if it was one-way’ and said the road could be ‘hard to access because of vans’.

Resident Joanna Smithson, 75, said: ‘Some of the north end of the street are very unhappy because of the traffic blocking their entrance. I accept it as part of living here.’

Fiona Brazier, 61, said a ‘compromise’ could be found with business needs. ‘I’m happy it is not a rat run now but am happy to accommodate business requests,’ she said.

Castle Road. Picture: Alex Shute

Meanwhile the overwhelming view on Palmerston Road was that it should remain closed to vehicles - despite some issues surrounding delivery drop-offs.

Grazina Mazailo, who works in Southsea Market, was in favour of the road closure to vehicles. She said: ‘It’s brilliant. It’s much more safe for people working. The atmosphere is nicer.’

Tom Hussey, co-director of Wild Thyme, was happy for the road to remain closed but admitted it had caused issues for deliveries which have to arrive before 11am.

‘We now get delivery vans and lorries turning up and having to turn round. Big lorries are just parking up where they can. It is causing more confusion,’ he said. ‘Delivery vans are having to park further away.

‘I like that the road is quieter and it is nice when the weather is good but we need more drop kerbs as it’s not great for disabled people to get on the pavement .and they now have to park further away.

‘There are also a lot of cigarette butts left on the street and there are no street cleaners - that is down to us now I think.’

Shahram Karman, a barber at Prime Barber, had mixed feelings. ‘In the summer it is beautiful. It is nice to have people out enjoying the area. But in the winter people won’t be outside,’ he said.

‘It won’t make any difference the road being closed in the winter so they are better to open it up. It is unnecessary. If people are not using the road then cars should.’

Residents were happy with the road remaining shut to traffic. Joan Beal, 81, and her granddaughter Maria Barrell, 36, said it was ‘too busy when all the cars are here’ with it now ‘nice like when you are abroad’.

Friends Tony Bailey, 76, and Alphie Johnson, 73, said they enjoy visiting the road most days.

‘It should have been done a long time ago. It’s more like the continent now. It’s more relaxed and better for businesses,’ Alphie said.

‘There are so many people sat outside down the road now and especially at weekends. There is no traffic to worry about.’

Tony, who runs Bailey’s Buses, added: ‘It’s a much better atmosphere. Before the kids didn’t know it was a road because it didn’t look like one.

‘We enjoy coming here and will carry on in the winter. They have heaters to keep you warm.’

In Guildhall Walk, many were happy with the pedestrianisation of the area with it seen as helping to improve a tarnished reputation.

Josh Ogden, general manager of the Brewhouse and Kitchen, led the organising committee to close the road to traffic.

‘There have been so many road traffic crashes here, many which happened at night. It was a real hazard,’ he said.

‘People still think of Guildhall Walk as a bit of rough and tumble but it should be the main place for people to visit in Portsmouth.

‘When we came in seven years ago we started to gentrify the street and so want to continue that.

‘Having lots of space out there for people to enjoy is massive. It will give pedestrians and the area a new lease of life and make less of a Jekyll and Hyde place where there is trouble.’

Brennan Joyce, general manager of The Guildhall Walk pub, said: ‘I’ve lived here for 11 years and Guildhall Walk is known as the place not to go so this move will hopefully help to change that.

‘I love it being closed to traffic. It creates a nice vibe and hopefully will have the same affect as in Palmerston Road where there is now less trouble as people go there for a nice night.

‘It’s nice to walk in the road and have that space especially with Covid so we’re not all bunched together.’

However, not everyone was happy with the move with Ahrash Sefidan, manager of Gida Express, saying it had impacted on trade and created problems with deliveries.

He said: ‘We don’t have access for deliveries from our back door so our deliveries have to come from down the road. It is an absolute nightmare when you are carrying lots of stock everyday.

‘It is especially horrible for my mum who struggles to carry things so far.

‘Delivery drivers who are taking food for takeaway have to come too far and the food gets cold. You see students walking a distance and lugging lots of stuff into their halls because they can’t park nearby.

‘I lived in Palmerston Road and can understand why they have closed the road there but here the pavement is six metres wide. It is more like an American boulevard.

‘We use to have people park up in cars and buy a burger and go but that doesn’t happen now. There is much less footfall.

‘They should keep the road open during the day and shut it at night time. I don’t see the need to close it all the time.’

Statutory consultations will now be launched as part of work to introduce new traffic regulation orders in the three roads.

These will cover Palmerston Road south of Osborne Road and the entirety of Guildhall Walk and Castle Road.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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