Traders happy as planned layout changes for city roads shelved


Cowgate in Peterborough. Photo: John Baker

Peterborough Matters revealed earlier this month that retailers, restaurant owners, estate agents and other business owners on Cowgate. King Street and Cross Street were aghast at city council plans to temporarily close parking bays and create a wider footpath.

A similar story was playing out on Broadway, and traders from the three streets had gained the support of city MP Paul Bristow in their battle to keep the layout as it is.

The ideas had originally arisen as the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough had approved a spend of £2,875,000, of which £575,000 must be spent within eight weeks in June and July on rapid, pilot upgrades to get more people walking and cycling.

They were also designed to allow greater social distancing by allowing cafes and restaurants to put more tables and chairs outside, as part of a move towards a 'cafe culture'.

Traders said it would inhibit their deliveries and prevent cars passing through from stopping off, but this week they got the news they wanted when the city council wrote to them individually to say it would not be going ahead with any of its proposals. 

The news has been met with disappointment from cycling pressure groups, who beleived a dual space for cyclists and pedestrians was possible - they are concerned that the lack of spending could influence future bids for funding.

Director of Kall Kwik Peterborough & Huntingdon Stephen Loasby had taken over as interim chairman of Cowgate Traders Association during the furore, and expressed thanks to the council that it had listened to the protests. 

He said: "The support against these ideas was colossal, so when we received this it was a huge hurrah and a huge sigh of relief.

"We are not knocking cyclists and there are areas of Peterborough where cycling is good for families, such as Nene Park and the Green Wheel, but we have a relatively small city centre that is completely different from London or Birmingham and we can't rush these things.

"The idea that people will cycle here and load up with bags of shopping is fatuous, and we have got to be careful because changes like this could mean that they may not have any businesses to cycle to anyway." 

While a petition from traders had been signed by more than 50 businesses on Cowgate alone, the proposals had been supported overwhelmingly in a Peterborough Matters poll which found more than 75% of people supported them.

Trevor McSparron, of Peterborough Cycle Forum, said of the decision: "This has now put at risk future funding for Peterborough and the Combined Authority as DfT have been clear: 'be bold, throw away the status quo of the car first policy and if you’re bold we will fund you and if you’re not we will take back the money and give it to councils who are committed to change.'

"So with this in mind it’s disappointing to see this cancelled and it jeopardises millions of pounds for the city in future grants because we fall at the first hurdle."

A council spokesperson said: "These two proposals were in response to ​a Government call to ​quickly reallocate road space in favour of pedestrians and cyclists and to aid Covid-19 restrictions in regard to public spaces. 

"Businesses in the Broadway and Cowgate area had expressed concerns about how limiting parking for drop off and pick up could negatively impact the reopening of their businesses.

"We are very conscious of the economic impact the pandemic has had on businesses, and in response we have pulled the two proposals. We are continuing to work on a number of schemes to be delivered under tranche 1 of the funding."

Mr Bristow added in a statement: "Peterborough City Council deserve a great deal of credit that they are willing to step back and listen to local businesses in Broadway and Cowgate.

"I want to see more people cycling in our city and new dedicated routes, but we have to take residents and business with us. I will work with the Cycling Forum to realise the ambition to make Peterborough a much more cycle-friendly city.

"I know we can do this in a way which is good for the environment, for business, will reduce congestion, design out anti-social behaviour, and be good for our waistlines!"

Elsewhere in the city a pop up cycle lane has already been installed on Crescent Bridge, while work will also now take place to build a cycle lane on City Road.