Agenda item

East Street/St. James Street, Taunton Pedestrianisation

This matter is the responsibility of the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation, Cllr Mike Rigby.


This report is split into two recommendations. The first details a plan to increase participation in active travel, reduce private car and public transport use whilst enabling social distancing in Taunton town centre, centred around new interventions on East Street. The second seeks authorisation for SWT Officers to work with the Highway Authority to make a permanent traffic regulation order on St James Street, following the successful 12-month trial closure which ended earlier this year. 



The report was split into two recommendations, which contributed to the same goals and objectives. The first detailed a plan to increase participation in active travel, reduce private car and public transport use whilst enabling social distancing in Taunton town centre, centred around new interventions on East Street. The second sought authorisation for SWT Officers to work with the Highway Authority to make a permanent traffic regulation order on St James Street, following the successful 12- month trial closure which ended earlier this year.


In May 2020 the Government announced a £2bn funding package to increase levels of active travel in the UK. This grant was broken down into two phases: Emergency Active Travel Fund Tranche 1 to enable social distancing while allowing non-essential retail to reopen in July after the first national lockdown; Tranche 2 sought to embed these changes in travel habits and create more permanent schemes to increase active travel in the long term.


Following the first national lockdown and the reopening of nonessential retail, July 2020 saw the closure of East Street to allow for social distancing and increase walking and cycling to reduce reliance on public transport and private car use. A temporary barrier was added to the Fore Street junction at the Burma Memorial roundabout and was marshalled throughout the day to allow emergency vehicles and retail deliveries one-way access on to East Street.


Throughout this time, a longer-term solution to the marshalled temporary barrier was also being sought and the Council launched consultations – both online and directly with key stakeholder representatives.


An interim measure to allow socially distanced shopping throughout December was in force which allowed Blue Badge holders one-way access to park on East Street before 10 am. A longer term plan for East Street had been developed that incorporated public realm improvement work, consultation feedback and allowed social distancing.


The Council, working in partnership with Somerset County Council agreed to create additional Blue Badge holder bays in key town centre streets and some car parks. In tandem, a plan to restrict vehicular access to East Street is proposed that will also look to enable greater traffic movement during peak travel times around Taunton town centre


Cycle lanes would be created which will enable two-way directional travel for bicycles 24 hours a day and new cycle storage and street furniture would be added to complement the anticipated increase in cyclists this scheme would see.


To address the needs of those with mobility issues, extra parking would include Blue Badge bays on Billet Street and on Magdalene Street, with two additional Blue Badge spaces in the Crescent Car Park. The layout of the proposed car park on the bus station site in Tower Street would also have an increased proportion of Blue Badge bays when it came into operation in the New Year.










Councillor Rigby set out a response to Mrs Glenn’s public submission.


Clarification was provided that East Street had not permanently adopted pedestrianisation. The temporary Closure of East Street to traffic commenced in June 2020 in advance of the reopening on July 4th 2020. This was to formalise the temporary closure that’s in place. The number of blue badge spaces were set out, there were 4 spaces in Billet Street, 2 in Magdalene Street and a number in Paul Street. Additional blue badge spaces would be provided in the bus station car park.


An automatic barrier would be put in place for shop delivery, traffic modelling on the high street would be undertaken before consideration comes back to council to anlyse traffic flow and consider if the temporary closure should remain permanent. Opportunity to use the exercise to analyse the impact to the town centre.


During the debate the following comments and questions were raised:-


·        SWT and SCC had a positive relationship in discussion over the proposals, SCC was the recognised highways authority.

·        Ultimate responsibility remained with County Council, both parties had to agree on the proposals for successful implementation. Funding from the Active Travel fund from central government had funded the proposals alongside the temporary barrier.

·        The ongoing cost implications would be part of any permanent decision.

·        Access for those with disabilities were questioned and concerns were expressed that the Council could be breaking the law under the Equality Act by restricting access for residents with disabilities.

·        It was acknowledged that there was competing requirements from stakeholders with different needs and requirements.

·        Further concern was expressed that the East Street consultation was not properly quantified.

·        4.2.3 and 4 describes the process underway in relation to St James Street project. There had been no planned equivalent with East Street.

·        Officers had taken into account the needs of a wide range of disabilities in coming forward with these proposals.

·        The committee were of the view that increasing walking and cycling opportunities shouldn’t impact on those with disabilities. Concerns were expressed in relation to the loss of parking ability to blue badge holders.

·        Project officers had taken advice and undertaken assessment process to consider the needs of disabled groups. Evidence of decision making would be supplied.

·        The committee cautioned that without an EIA there could be the potential for legal challenge.

·        The aim of increased public transport not being reduced as a result of proposals was emphasised. More information was requested in relation to the loss of bus stops in East Street and different routes busses were required to take as a result.

·        Members of the Scrutiny Committee requested the EIA following the Scrutiny Committee, it was agreed the wording around public transport would be rephrased in future versions of the report.

·        A more reasonable time restriction for Blue Badge parking was determined to be before 11am and after 3pm to give greater option of choice and inclusivity.

·        The committee questioned if there was a Code of practice for pedestrianisation and access, Cheshire had one and efforts were encouraged to Somerset County Council to create this.

·        Limits on parking for Lorries was encouraged between 8pm and 10pm.

·        Electric busses which could be used in shorter routes was encouraged to be considered.

·        A further period of temporary closure for Covid-19 funded by the active travel fund for Covid-19 secure shopping would be considered.

·        St James Street proposals were set out

·        Any changes to the St James Street appearance or permanent closure was a legal process, there was a desire in the short term to change the street surfacing.

·        There was a desire to see a change to the look and feel of the shopping environment, it was too early to set out what this would look like.


The Scrutiny Committee Recommended:-


2.1Officers continued to work with Somerset County Council’s Highways team and representatives of Taunton’s disability interest groups on proposed modifications to vehicular access on East Street in Taunton to increase active travel and enable social distancing. Specifically, instructing them to:

2.1.1. Limit vehicular access and restrict traffic movement to one direction only (from the Fore Street junction, exiting onto East Reach/ Silver Street)

2.1.2. Creating cycle lanes in both directions and offering additional cycle parking 2.1.3. Create additional Blue Badge parking on Magdalene Street, Billet St and the Crescent Car Park

2.2. The 12-month trial scheme for St James Street be made permanent

Supporting documents: