Council to decide on modified Portswood plans

portswood crossroads cyclist bus cars pedestrians 600px 25 9 23 P1040677A protest for Saturday is being promoted in many Portswood shop windows, responding to what’s described as a plan for the “permanent closure of Portswood Broadway” to cars, although the proposed ‘closure’ is now for a shorter length of the street, and now during peak times only.



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The ‘peaceful protest’ about what’s described on the poster as the “last chance to make your voice heard” about “permanent closure of Portswood Broadway (High St) to through cars” is advertised for Saturday (Jan 13).

Council plans have only ever been to restrict traffic on a short stretch, from St Denys Road to Westridge Road, and not to close the entire street.

But now, proposals going before the Southampton City Council’s (SCC) cabinet next Tuesday (Jan 16), have been amended — some would say ‘watered down’ — to only introduce restrictions during peak hours.

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They include a part-time motor vehicle restriction from 7 am – 10 am and from 4 pm – 7 pm, with access to all vehicles allowed outside these times.

And the revised plans will apply only from the St Denys spur by Trago Lounge to Westridge Road, rather than from the main crossroads at St Denys Road, as was previously put forward.

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Poster displayed in many Portswood shop windows on Thursday (Jan 11)

The scheme would be brought in on a six-month trial basis to “assess the impact of limiting through traffic in the area”, with further consultations on any required Traffic Regulation Orders in the summer.

Any construction of the scheme would happen in winter 2024/25.

Local Conservatives have been among those vocal in opposing the previous Portswood proposals. Deputy party leader Cllr Jeremy Moulton tweeted on December 8: “Scrap it. Labour's plans will cause traffic chaos and kill #Portswood Broadway.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has also noted that the city’s Tory opposition leader Cllr Dan Fitzhenry has consistently spoken of his objection to the plans, and said he would “scrap it immediately” if the Tories returned to power in the city. At least two of the three (unsuccessful) Conservative candidates for Portswood ward also said they opposed the plans ahead of the last local election on May 4.

Understandable concerns have been vocalised by some businesses, at what is a difficult time for many. Other posters displayed in a couple of high street shops on Thursday suggested that businesses are concerned about measures impacting trade, threatening existence and reducing choice.

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While this may be so, it isn’t borne out by all research: this detailed 2018 report from charity Living Streets on ‘The Pedestrian Pound’, for example, says: “Case study evidence suggests that well-planned improvements to public spaces can boost footfall and trading”.

Other worries have been about what happens to traffic trying to bypass Portswood when Thomas Lewis Way closes, as happened on January 5 when it flooded, or when there’s a crash.

But with the plans now getting a makeover in an apparent attempt to meet everyone’s concerns, could the council actually end up pleasing no one?

Local resident Chris Zardis said: “I firmly believe that in order for Portswood High Street to survive long term it needs to be a better (safer, cleaner, greener, more welcoming) environment for people to want to spend time in. In a clear attempt from the council to compromise I worry that, far from satisfying those that oppose the scheme in its entirety, many of the tangible benefits (e.g. to bus times, accessibility, modal shift, pedestrian footfall and business income) will be far more difficult to realise. The detail is important, and we have not seen it. But my concern is that having compromised on the scheme, it may have been — albeit unintentionally — undermined.”

SCC’s cabinet is due to discuss the issue on Tuesday, January 16 from 4.30pm in the council chamber. The link to watch online is here, and council meetings are generally also available to watch after the event using the same link.

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