There has been much on social media recently as a result of the sinkhole as to why the Town Council hasn’t agreed to Pedestrianisation of all/part of the High Street and some unhelpful and unfair comments that the Council have been ignoring the will of the people. With petitions starting in the town both for and against pedestrianisation it reflects how this is an issue which effects different people and sectors of the community in different ways. Sadly there is no one solution which will make everyone happy and sustain our Town Centre.Below is an account of what the Town Council has been working hard on in partnership with the community in regard to this over the last year and the conclusions and stage we are currently at.
The Sheringham Town Centre Development Task Group was formed in April 2018 with the focus of identifying a way forward for Sheringham Town Centre. This group came about as there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with regard to the scheme proposed by Cllrs Oliver and Shepherd and reluctance on the part of highways to agree to the proposals. The Town Council were asked to, and felt they should, take on this project to liaise with the wider Community and develop a feasible scheme which would meet the needs of all the community. The Town Centre Group was born with the aim to ensure a vibrant and sustainable town centre operating over 12 months to meet the needs of the residents of Sheringham and the surrounding area, businesses and visitors.
The task group is a forum representing broad sections of the community, including the town Council, The Chamber of Trade, Highways, the elderly, families and the youth of the town, those with restricted mobility, visual impairment and other disabilities. Representatives from NNDC, Upper Sheringham and Beeston Regis Parish council were also invited. There are representatives from Carnival, Sheringham in Bloom, Sheringham District Society and the Police Safer Neighbourhood Partnership. As a forum, it then makes recommendations to Sheringham Town Council to approve.
At present, the development of a pedestrian friendly zone is being explored, after concerns about the previously proposed pedestrianisation scheme were expressed by wide sections of the community. Concerns were mainly with regard to:
- The scheme not being a pedestrianisation scheme as there would have to be significant movements of cars through the area- possibly as many as 70 per hour. This therefore has implications for safety of the pedestrians. (disabled parking, deliveries and residents and garages)
- The temporary nature of the scheme would lead to both pedestrians and vehicles being unsure as to when pedestrianisation orders were in place. This again has serious safety implications.
- Highways will not approve any scheme which requires traffic to be redirected along Beeston road as this is inaccessible due to the low bridge as is Curtis lane. Beeston Road is also narrow and has passing issues already with 2 way traffic with cars, which would be further exacerbated with an increase in vans and smaller lorries
- Tables and chairs would not be permissible in the road as this would still need to be fully accessible to emergency vehicles and also would need to be sectioned off not creating a hazard to pedestrians. Businesses would also be required to pay a license fee for tables and use of outdoor space. A false image of what pedestrianisation would look like was presented to the public.
- As has been illustrated by the Sinkhole deliveries by large vehicles from the breweries, refuse and catering companies have been problematic with no access and the low bridge on Beeston road. Emergency vehicles had great difficulty to access the bottom end of town with a recent beach emergency and precious time was lost due to the low bridge. It was also a possiblity the vehicle concerned would not get through as it was just inches off the bridge. We also have delivery companies pushing large sack barrows and wired cages through the town down to the bottom end of the town to make deliveries – this in itself is a safety issue and accidents have previously happened in the town involving deliveries and wire cages. Companies have been accommodating during an unavoidable emergency situation with the sink hole but will not be prepared to accommodate this on a permanent basis. Scheduling deliveries is also unrealistic when we’re a distance from the distribution points and will affect traders who wish stock to be delivered quickly to satisfy customer demand and compete with online shopping.
- The removal of over 78 car parking spaces considered essential to the towns economy.
- Reduced access for the elderly and those with restricted mobility. (50% of the population)
- Reduced turnover for businesses in the town centre.
- Encouraging trade to transfer to out of the centre shops/businesses, therefore having implications for the sustainability of the town.
- Encouraging more eateries and takeaways, which would reduce the broad mix of the town centre and its ability to serve the community over 12 months rather than just for a summer season (national research statistically supports this).
Pedestrian Friendly Sheringham
The Pedestrian Zone aims to create an atmosphere where vehicles do not dominate the space and pedestrians feel much safer and more relaxed, there are more green spaces, cycling is encouraged and accessibility is improved for all sections of the community. This will be achieved through
The creation of 3 entrances into the town centre in order to create the zone effect. These will form mini green spaces and narrowed gate effect entrances and have been approved by Highways.
The widening of the pavement from Pungleberrys through to Ellies ice cream shop with a priority road system. Highways wlll not approve any scheme, which involves directing increased traffic along Beeston road or vehicles exiting down Co-operative Street and on to Beeston Road
To introduce the reduction of speed limits and traffic calming within the zone – approved by Highways.
A Feasibilty Scheme to develop plans and options to complete this with Highways. This has been agreed to be funded from Cllr Judy Olivers Norfolk County Council’s Members Highway fund as she has been a member of this group. Previous District Councillor, Dick Shepherd, despite being invited has not attended a meeting of the Town Centre Development Group or contributed.
A scheme to improve the highways signage which will share the load of traffic across the towns 5 car parks and direct people to where they want to be rather than driving round a one way system and becoming gridlocked at the bottom of the town and then leaving. The Town Centre Group has completed audits, prepared a proposed scheme and is currently entering negotiations with NNDC and NCC Highways and sourcing funding
A scheme to put in place a pedestrian signage and information scheme across the whole town centre. This will also direct foot passengers to amenities and facilities which have previously gone unnoticed and improve the visitor experience. The Town Centre Group have completed a pedestrian sign audit, liaised with the Chamber of Trade and other amenities to complete a proposal to establish a scheme for this and also achieved the funding to complete the design/ feasibility stage prior to production. Funding applications are being completed to fund the production and installation of the pedestrian signage.
An audit of the disabled parking in the town has been completed and proposals to reduce the double yellow line parking and congestion created as a result put forward to NNDC and NCC by the Town Centre Group and are under discussion
A scheme to increase cycle parking in the town and seafront has taken place with locations now agreed and funding applications going in to purchase the cycle racks, improved signage and install. One rack near to the Sorting office has already been installed
A greener Sheringham project has also been established with a view to developing more green spaces within the town centre. This will include the development of what are known as mini parklets. In addition STC are looking to replace and increase the number of trees in the central area of town. The redevelopment of the War memorial Garden as a Community project is also under this Greener Sheringham umbrella.
As part of it’s remit the group is also looking at ways of increasing footfall and maintaining our independent Town Centre and developing repeat custom to ensure an economically healthy and vibrant future for the town and promoting tourism. The Town Centre group is working in partnership with Carnival, the Chamber of Trade and other local organisations to ensure we keep Sheringham Special.
Maintaining a vibrant town centre over a whole year is more than just pedestrianisation and the Town Centre Group have been looking at this as a much bigger and more sustainable project. If there were wider streets with room for the development of mini plazas or cafe culture or alternative routes without low bridges and narrow roads then pedestrianisation would be easier to consider and put in place. However, with the current situation we have and after much thought, research and deliberation of all the different facts, needs and views within the community and legal requirements, the Town Centre Group recommended to the Town Council the scheme as has been outlined above. The feasibility scheme was due to commence in June but this has been thwarted by the sinkhole. Once the road is reopened it is planned to complete this process as quickly as possible.
A great deal has been achieved in a year as you can see from above. Two engagement days were run last year in July when this was all coming together at the Community Centre (daytime and evening) advertised in the North Norfolk news and on social media and posters around the town. Responses at these events to the scheme were positive. In addition this formed part of the town plan which was displayed and discussed at the Town Meeting in April this year. (Advertised in the North Norfolk News, Sheringham Independent, Just Sheringham, posters and widely on social media. Over 200 people attended. )
It is hoped from this that you will see that the Town council is in fact working hard towards developing a compromise solution that meets the needs of all the community, who we represent. Most importantly we believe along with the partners working with us, this scheme preserves our vibrant town centre as an all year round centre and not a seasonal holiday resort.. It is important that as a Council we listen to and consider all the different sectors needs and voices and not just those who shout the loudest.