Kingsmead Square is about to become more pedestrian friendly with vehicles denied access from 11am to midnight each day.
This follows Bath & North East Somerset Council reporting back on the outcomes of a consultation on proposals to improve the historic space and ensure it meets its potential as a thriving, pedestrian-friendly destination for the city.
The consultation- which took place between September 2018 and January 2019 – engaged over 200 people at two well-attended engagement sessions held in the square, as well as generating a further 15 written submissions to the formal consultation.
The consultation document highlighted that the current layout of the square fails to realise its potential at the heart of the city’s entertainment area. It therefore proposed to prevent vehicle access from 11am to midnight at both ends of the square through the use of removable bollards, leading to a total of 1,500m2 of road space returned to pedestrian priority use.
Additional future improvements to enhance the square will be identified working with the Bath BID, local traders and the local community.
Overall, there was a high level of public support for the proposals. Of 77 views recorded at the engagement sessions, most supported a more pedestrian-friendly Kingsmead Square, with some wishing the council to go further and make a wider area car-free.
Of the 15 detailed written responses received, eight supported the proposal. However, some concerns were raised particularly from local professional businesses who highlighted that the square should not just be seen as an entertainment area.
Separate detailed engagement took place with local businesses with around 100 individual business visits carried out by council officers. Businesses supported the potential for an improved “café culture”, attracting more businesses and improving public spaces. However, businesses also raised a number of practical concerns including more complicated deliveries and refuse collections and noise pollution from events.
The scheme has also received support from the majority of local businesses and investment to improve Kingsmead Square is also backed by local ward Councillors Andrew Furse & Sue Craig.
Cabinet Member for Transport Cllr Mark Shelford said:“I am delighted by the responses we have received and in particular the level of support for the council’s proposals for a pedestrian-friendly Kingsmead Square. I will make sure they are considered very carefully before moving on to the next stage. I am particularly pleased to see the high level of engagement from local businesses, Kingsmead Square is a vibrant and much-loved part of the city with a wide variety of uses and it is important that we get this right so it fulfils its potential as an area everyone can enjoy. I am particularly keen that this scheme be progressed through consensus wherever possible, working with local businesses as part of my vision for a pedestrian-friendly city centre.
“The next step will be for council to work closely with local traders and residents on the scheme details, including plans for new loading bays, improvements to commercial recycling and layout of outdoor tables and chairs to enhance the city’s cafe culture and consultation is planned on this design detail for 2019”.
In 2018, Kingsmead Square businesses co-funded an independent transport assessment which highlighted the opportunities for improving the square by removing motorised vehicle access apart from morning deliveries.This proposal accompanies a series of public realm improvement projects planned across B&NES, with projects in development in Bath City centre, Midsomer Norton, Keynsham and in local centres such as Twerton High Street.
Councillor Sue Craig, Lib Dem Councillor for Kingsmead ward, commented:
“Further consultation with the local businesses will be needed to iron out the issues with deliveries and waste collection, but this is a welcome and positive step forward. Giving pedestrians exclusive access to the square during set times each day will make a convivial space for the residents of Bath to enjoy outdoor social and cultural activities, with the added benefit of improving air quality for businesses and residents in the area.”
Fellow Kingsmead Councillor Andy Furse added:
“This scheme has been a long time coming and has followed many years of consultation, research and planning. Over that time local Councillors have worked with the business community in the square to achieve small incremental improvements like tree lights, new waste bins, introduction of tables and chairs; but this brings us so much closer to achieving a step change by limiting traffic whilst maintaining access”