A TROUBLED pedestrian zone which cost £500,000 to set up could be abolished after just two years because of the crippling impact it has had on businesses.
Portsmouth City Council might open the southern precinct of Palmerston Road, Southsea, back up to traffic to help boost firms and improve traffic flow.
It would be tested out for 12 months before a consultation is carried out to determine whether the changes should be made permanent.
Shops have praised the move as they say trade has plummeted as a result of motorists not being able to park and visit any more. But those both in favour and against the zone have now blasted the whole scheme as a waste of public money, given that the Lib Dems used £500,000 from a government fund only two years ago to set it up. Money has also paid for three consultations into what people think of the scheme.
Sandy Peters, owner of Sopranos restaurant, said the council had rushed into spending the cash and didn’t take into account everyone involved.
‘The council didn’t look at the impact on businesses, the local environment and the little side roads,’ she said.
Lib Dem ward councillor Hugh Mason said scrapping the zone was a bad move.
‘It’s not just a waste of money, but it’s flying in the face of evidence from around the country that pedestrian precincts benefit traders,’ he said.
‘It flies in the face of decisions which were informed by extensive consultation. If the scheme has cost more than the money we got from the government, the difference would be very small.’
Sophie Curtis, manager of Preloved Portsmouth, said: ‘We lost nearly all of our trade. No-one comes down here any more.’
The precinct was designed to promote a ‘cafe culture’, but campaigners say it’s become a hub for drinkers.
The precinct could be made one-way from the seafront and drivers at the end then turning into Osborne Road.
Cllr Ken Ellcome, cabinet member for traffic and transport, will put forward the proposal at a future council meeting. He said money needn’t have been spent if a proper consultation had been done in the first place.
‘Most of the businesses along there have suffered from a lack of trade,’ he said. ‘What I am proposing is a half-way house where we get the traffic and some parking back in again, and after the 12-month experiment we will see what people think.’
The News asked the office of Mike Hancock, the former cabinet member for planning and regeneration, for a comment but was told he was not available.
‘Minimal costs’ involved in making road alterations
THE man in charge of overseeing traffic issues in Portsmouth says there are minimal costs involved in opening the southern precinct in Palmerston Road back up to traffic one way.
Conservative councillor Ken Ellcome says a minimal amount will need to be spent on putting in one-way signs and parking bays along the road. A survey by The News carried out last year revealed 24 of the 31 firms in the precinct were unhappy with the restrictions. Thirteen companies wanted the road opened back up to traffic and another 12 want the zone shut off to buses. Firms had wanted to take legal action against the council for the way it introduced the scheme, but couldn’t afford potentially hefty court fees.
To read The News’ view on this click here.