Reopening Witney’s High Street

The changes to the town centre being introduced by the District Council this coming Monday are funded from a different pot of money to that paying for Oxfordshire’s Travel Recovery Plans.

The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund shares out £50m from the European Regional Development Fund to local authorities based on population. The scope of the funding includes “Temporary public realm changes to ensure that reopening of local economies can be managed successfully and safely.” The annex at the end of the document lists the allocation to each local authority:

Cherwell………………………… £133,843
Oxford…………………………… £134,950
South Oxfordshire…………… £125,160
Vale of White Horse…………. £121,938
West Oxfordshire…………….. £97,972

Although separate to Oxfordshire’s Travel Recovery Plans they will be complementary – the District has to liaise with the County to restrict access to a road and to suspend parking along it.

Not surprisingly, the changes being made by WODC are focused along the High Street and in particular where it joins Welch Way.

They differ from our proposals for the High Street, but that’s fine, there’s more than one way to maintain access while discouraging through traffic. The main differences are:

  • We proposed a road closure in Langdale Gate by the Buttercross – WODC have one in Welch Way (3).
  • We proposed a one-way restriction except buses and cycles in Corn Street and in the High Street at the junction with Witan Way – WODC have a two-way(?) restriction except buses, cycles and taxis in the High Street by the Buttercross (7).
  • We proposed shared use through Marriotts – WODC have ‘segregated footways’ which will likely make social distancing with people on bikes too difficult anyway. Incidently, one-way footways are being introduced in Oxford.
  • We had banned right turns into Woodford Way from Welch Way, and into Witan Way from the High Street – WODC have neither which means no cycle lane at the Witan Way lights heading out of town, but with the road closure (3) and traffic restriction (7) that may not be a problem.

20mph has been a long time coming, removing non-disabled parking along the High Street is welcome, and point 11 gives us hope that Corn Street will be shown some love: “Possible traffic restriction on Corn Street to allow additional space for pedestrians.”

Because these changes can be introduced very quickly, it follows that they can be refined quickly too, which is a good thing. Along with the changes being planned by the County this is a chance to experiment and find a healthier, cleaner compromise to all the competing claims on our public space. And for relatively little cost.

Let us know how you find the new layout.