The introduction of the new pedestrianised zone in Market Jew Street at the end of last week, with restrictions on through traffic between 11 am and 4pm, has already led to a more positive look and feel to the town centre.
The aim of the Healthy Streets PZ scheme is to make Penzance a better, healthier and easier place to live, work and shop by reducing the dominance of traffic in Market Jew Street. As well as being part of the town’s response to the climate emergency, the creation of the pedestrianised zone also reflects the views expressed by local residents during last year’s Penzance Expo and Neighbourhood Plan consultation.
While the introduction of the scheme supports the town’s Covid Recovery programme, work on developing detailed proposals to reduce traffic in the town centre has actually been taking place during the past year as part of the town’s wider ambition to revitalise our economy, promote sustainable transport and tackle climate change.
Pedestrianisation schemes have been trialled in other towns in Cornwall, with both Truro and Falmouth recently opting to continue to operate their schemes for a further period following a positive response from their local communities.
Part of a wider ambition to regenerate the local economy at the same time as tackling the climate crisis and ensuring a sustainable future for Penzance, the Healthy Streets PZ scheme will reduce through traffic and create new pedestrian areas in the town centre; develop new accessible routes; promote walking and cycling and provide other more sustainable forms of transport.
While drivers and pedestrians are still getting used to the new restrictions, there has already been a significant reduction in the number of vehicles driving through Market Jew Street during the period the zone has been in operation. Specific traffic monitoring will be carried out in the next few weeks to provide an accurate figure of the number of vehicles entering the town.
The new signage is in place. These signs inform drivers as to where they can, and more importantly, where they can’t, go while the pedestrian zone is in operation. The road markings in the vicinity of Albert Street and the Branwells Mill gyratory system have also been changed to reduce the volumes of traffic using Market Jew Street as a ‘short cut’ across Penzance. There are also electronic VMS signs on the outskirts of the town which warn drivers about the scheme before they have to re route.
Highways officers are monitoring how the signs are working, and will make changes to the number and layout of the signs if required.
The use of the red “no entry” signs at the Market Place end of Market Jew Street and at the start of the Branwells Mill gyratory system means that entering the pedestrian and cycle zone between 11 am and 4pm is now an offence.
The no loading restrictions during the zone operational period and restricted loading and waiting to specific areas outside of the operational period have also been retained. This means that if a vehicle does drive through the restriction and then stops to load or wait, this can be enforced.
It is essential to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in Market Jew Street and, once the scheme has had a chance to settle down, the Healthy Streets PZ team will be working with partners to make sure that the restrictions are enforced. This will include locating street wardens at both entrances to remind people of the restrictions.
“We are aware that the introduction of the scheme has led to concerns from some older people and those with disabilities in the town “ said Councillor Nicole Broadhurst, the Mayor of Penzance. We recognise the importance of ensuring the town centre is accessible to everyone and want to ensure that the final scheme works for all parts of our community “
Following an initial discussion with disability groups the timing of the introduction of the restrictions was changed from 10 am to 11 am to give people with disabilities more time to visit the town centre for appointments and do their shopping. The restrictions also finish at 4pm, enabling blue badge holders and others to enter Market Jew Street after this period.
A number of people also use buses and taxis to travel to the town, and the trial scheme does not restrict bus or taxi access to the town centre.
A number of other measures were also added to the original scheme to improve accessibility in the town. Additional blue badge spaces will shortly be provided in the Clarence Street car parks with appropriate linkages to the main shopping streets (these are on the raised section providing flat access to Causewayhead and the town).
Work is continuing to re-introduce a Shop Mobility scheme in the town to support people with significant mobility issues. Penzance BID, the Town Deal Board and other partners are working extremely hard to ensure it is available as quickly as possible, with discussions currently taking place to identify a location for the scheme.
The team leading the project also recognised that the introduction of the trial scheme may potentially create some issues for delivery companies and took the decision to amend the original 10 am timing of the start of the restrictions to 11 am to provide additional time for deliveries to be made. Additional loading bays have also been provided within Market Jew Street for when the road is open to vehicles. This will enable increased servicing provision. There are also a number of existing loading bays outside of the pedestrian zone which delivery companies can use when making deliveries to the town during the hours the restrictions are in place.
“Making such a significant change to a well established traffic layout was always going to be challenging and inevitably there will be some elements which do not work as expected “ said Penzance BID Manager Jess Morris.
“However, as this is a ‘living trial’, these can be amended during the scheme to ensure that it is meeting the needs of all parts of the community. “It is not possible to do everything at once and we need to see how it is working before we make any changes. “
Sustainable Penzance is one of the key partners involved in the Healthy Streets PZ scheme and Rachel Yates was delighted to see more people walking and cycling when she visited the town centre over the weekend.
“This is early days as the scheme was only introduced last Thursday but you can already see a marked difference to the feel of Market Jew Street “ she said. “We know that it will take time for people to get used to the restrictions, and there will inevitably need to be some enforcement to make sure the scheme is working properly and is safe for pedestrians and cyclists, but we have made a really good start”.
“This is the first phase of a longer term, wider vision for our town which focuses on improving access and revitalising the town for everyone and I am looking forward to working with partners and the local community to make Penzance a thriving place for the future”.