Each week we are asking one member from each Working Group to share what they discussed at each meeting and plan to do for the next session. Here is the final Movement Working Group overview:
The final week of the working groups was a drawing together of the threads from previous discussions. This coalesced around a series of 12 x action points that all flow from a common theme, that of a better environment and improved movement choices for everyone will benefits the whole of Winchester.
- The Ancient Street Pattern – This should be a key lever for change. Unlike other cities, that have 20th Century road networks (such as Basingstoke) Winchester retains its narrow, charming streets that give it such quality and character. Yet these narrow streets create a problem when asked to accommodate motor vehicles. The width of the street and the size of the vehicles makes two-way flows challenging and one-way loops can behave like a race track and become noisy and divisive.
- Small Businesses Need a Voice – These businesses often see a boost from car reduction in the city, but this is not widely reported. They need to be given a platform for supporting car-reduction. We need to make a quiet consensus a bit louder! In Salisbury, they are holding a “Big Conversation” on radical changes to movement in another cathedral city. Winchester needs something similar – is the MOVEMENT aspect of One Great Win the start of that process?
- Demonstrator Projects That Look Good – While there is support for the current reallocation of road space in the wake of the pandemic, this could look much better than it does. Instead of red and white plastic barriers and bollards, can these not be planter boxes with flowers and landscape features? Let us green the city as well as make it easier to walk and cycle.
- Jewry Street – Packed with business, bars, and the theatre this was considered a great venue for a test project that explores new ways to use the space in the city centre.
- Why Are Cars in The Centre Anyway? – A simple but often overlooked reason is the fact there are car parks in the centre. Many vehicle movements are penetrating deep into the historic heart because car parking is on offer. Remove this and replace or rationale towards the edges of the city and traffic volume reduction in the middle will come much more readily and quickly.
- Develop A Widespread Consensus – There is a need for widespread agreement that a reduction in traffic volume is a good thing before projects are proposed. This will help avoid the push back that is experienced before things are even started. At present, there appear to be too many unconvinced that fewer cars in Winchester is a good thing. So this consensus is needed and can only come from a well-informed debate. That information can come from a website rich in material about what is possible, the urban experiments that have worked and been supported elsewhere. There was a feeling that voices against change are not big voices, but they are shrill voices and receive disproportionate attention.
- Never Waste A Good Crisis – What is the crisis? Depends on what measure we are using. The working group considered air quality in the city centre was at crisis point already. But perhaps there are two crises already: Covid-19 and air pollution. Problem is, both invisible. We need to make them visible, especially the deaths from air pollution that are greater than deaths from smoking, apparently. But slowly, incrementally, we have reached a point where we can “live with air pollution” as it has developed over time. Can we use GP data to push home the harsh realities of this?
- Who Is the Champion? – Which political leader is willing to take a stand to address these crises and make the changes that are needed? Individual councillors want to do something but fear alienating the small but shrill voices. Councillors can project the wrong level of interest onto groups – such as businesses – and it is important to remove that misinterpretation. Let us create an assembly of people to make it known what people really think. The public are almost always in favour of these changes to streets and spaces but how long before WCC catch up with public opinion?
- Who Will Make the Projects Happen? – There is a lack of consistency of technical officers working on Winchester projects. There has been a high turnover of staff at both the city council and county council. No sooner are they getting to grips with an issue, and they either leave for a post elsewhere or are swapped into different roles. This needs to change and officers should be allowed to see a project through to completion.
- Cycling to School – This is something so basic but is still something we have not made possible for a whole generation of children. This absolutely must be an objective moving forward.
- Local Neighbourhood Centres – Much of the discussion over previous weeks focused on city centre issues but life in the outer neighbourhoods cannot be forgotten. How do they move and how and why do the access the city centre
- Collaboration, Participation & Systemic Change – The process ahead needs to include the space to catch emerging ideas. It cannot be fixed or rigid. It needs to flex with changing times, changing attitudes, and changing technologies. But at its heart it needs a strong set of principles about why making a better environment and offering improved movement choices for everyone will benefit the whole of Winchester.
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