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Planned enhancements to Church Street have faced a series of challenges, say the town’s Business Improvement District (BID), but they will go ahead.
The plan is set to include extensions to pavements, street furniture with garden planters, seating, and a defined one way system to significantly improve safety for pedestrians while making for a more attractive place to shop and dwell in town.
A spokesperson for BID said: “This project has been extremely challenging, but we are committed to bringing it to fruition. We all want to see the end of the Hog barriers that were initially put down in the heat of the Covid pandemic to provide much-needed social distancing in the town, and create a temporary one way system on this section of Church Street.
“Following the lifting of Covid restrictions, safety concerns were raised by Highways about the speed of vehicles travelling through and overtaking in this section, especially worrying during the night time economy when lots of people would be on the street walking home. This is the key reason why the Hogs were left in place – to ensure public safety until more permanent improvements were made.
“Now given the clear safety benefits provided by the temporary Covid-led road layout, it was decided to consider making the one-way traffic regulation order permanent – a period of consultation then followed. Also at this time, BID had started to explore how Church Street could be improved to provide more pedestrian space, calm the traffic and ensure safety, all whilst enhancing the street scene. These thoughts and ideas were run past both Oswestry Town Council and Shropshire Council at the Future Oswestry Group Meetings.
“BID then initiated a series of useful onsite meetings with Shropshire Council Highways, Environmental Associates (Designers), WSP, and Kier. A variety of proposals were made, though meeting the demands of Highways regulations, funding and resourcing proved challenging. However, BID continued to research similar projects around the UK which brought up several innovative, workable case studies showing street scenes that had been significantly improved without hitting the boundaries of highways legislation.”
Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for growth, regeneration and housing shared: “The current set up on Church Street is in place to protect members of the public and to align with health and safety requirement for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. We understand the public want to see change, and we are investigating several alternatives to the current set up for the interim period before permanent works are established.”
Oswestry Town Council is extremely pleased that a solution has been found and will be delivered in the upcoming months. A spokesperson for the council said, “The temporary solution, whilst necessary, was in place for far too long and generated significant public dissatisfaction. We would like to thank Oswestry BID for their persistence and look forward to seeing the improvements which will make Church Street a more pleasant place to spend time on.”
Oswestry BID Manager, Adele Nightingale, accepts that delays to the scheme have been very frustrating, but is determined that the outcome will be welcomed, and a vast improvement on before.
“We’re going as quickly as we can,” she said. “The new street layout has to meet a series of important checks, as with any highways scheme, all of which takes time, including stringent highways regulations, conservation requirements, consideration of drainage solutions, re-designing the drains to fit with the new scheme, and a topographical survey in co-operation with a number of partners in the public and private sector. Note that the current positions of the loading bay and Blue Badge bay will remain as part of the new layout.
“BID have secured £70,000 from the Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) funding for the planters and street furniture, all of which have been purchased and are in storage ready for installation. We’re now at the stage where technical drawings are being drafted, so the work can be planned and begun. We are also working with Shropshire Council to ensure that these works are completed at the same time as resurfacing and relining to cause as little disruption to businesses as possible.
“Once designs and dates for works have been confirmed, BID will provide an update through the press and on our social media platforms. We’d like to thank everyone for their patience. We’re on the final lap now, so here’s to a rejuvenated Church Street in the upcoming months,” she added.