Controversial 'street kit' furniture raises eyebrows in Alnwick as brightly coloured appears in pedestrianised Narrowgate
Brightly coloured street furniture on the newly pedestrianised Narrowgate in Alnwick has attracted mixed views.
The road, between Fenkle Street and Bondgate, was blocked off to traffic on Monday for a year-long trial which aims to create a safer and more pleasant experience for pedestrians.
The modular street furniture, called ‘street kit’ has been provided by Sustrans and put in place by Northumberland County Council.
It is designed to be used flexibly for temporary events or activities on streets. It can be put in any manner of configurations and moved about to suit the street.
It can also be planted or decorated and hopefully these will be adorned soon with some large pots full of flowers.
As well as using it as the road closure barrier, the council has also put them all along the street to get a better idea of where people sit so that it can plan permanent seating if the closure becomes permanent.
The other benefit is that it can be removed quickly, which is going to be the case for when the Tour of Britain comes along Narrowgate on September 9. After this the council will be replacing the street kit with more permanent furniture.
However, the new-look street has drawn criticism from local residents on the Gazette’s Facebook page.
Yvonne Williams wrote: ‘As a Narrowgate trader I am trying to have an open mind and see how it goes, but my initial impressions are not good.
‘Huge 'Road Closed' signs are not exactly an invitation to potential customers to explore further down the street.
‘And they have now been joined by big brightly coloured blocks which are completely out of keeping with what is supposed to be a conservation area. It all just looks very unwelcoming.’
Daniel Spours added: ‘The road system in the town centre was working fine all that was required was some path widening or removal of shop signs off the pavements. All this will achieve is driving custom out of town.’
But Betty Henderson said: ‘I think it's a nice idea. It's nice to shop without the traffic.’
And Lee Collis added: ‘Bring it on tables outside for the cafes, trading stalls for other businesses. People will soon learn it's closed off.’
Coun Gordon Castle, Alnwick county councillor, said: “I recognise this is controversial, but it’s what was asked for by the vast majority of respondents when options were presented in a public drop in.
“It’s a trial to see how it works, but it does need time to settle down. I agree that the road closed signs are horribly ugly and the council highways team have been asked to reduce the size and number at each end of Narrowgate.
“The plastic furniture is not lovely to many but is a means of providing seating. We can improve this. Traffic flows are being measured and evidence will be collated from that and from traders. “I’m surprised at the suggestions in some quarters that it’s less safe than before. It was a most difficult part of town to cross safely and cars reversing and turning have always been part of the picture. It is now possible to cross the street without vehicles to look for and I hope traders take advantage of the extra space outside their businesses.
“Most people are positive and open minded about this - we wouldn’t do anything if we never took a risk that something might not work, but I agree we need to smarten the signage and we will.”
Traders are being encouraged to come up with creative ideas about how the new pedestrianised area could be used, with planters being temporarily installed to block off the road to vehicles and bunting being put up on the street.
Businesses are being urged to feed any other ideas into the Chamber of Trade to help create a welcoming area for shoppers.
During the trial traffic levels around the town will be monitored to measure the impact of the closure and the trial scheme will be reviewed in 12 months time.
Drivers who have previously used Narrowgate to get in and out of the town should now use the alternative routes via Fenkle Street or Dispensary Street which will be clearly signposted.