Would pedestrianising our high streets encourage more shoppers?

Whilst on the face of it pedestrianisation sounds like a very attractive proposition, the reality often doesn’t match the expectation, and the knock-on effects on those areas around a pedestrian road are usually negative.

For Sevenoaks I would reframe the question and instead ask, how can we make the experience more pleasant for pedestrians and at the same time improve traffic flows in the High Street and London Road?

In Sevenoaks, the High Street actually flows freely the vast the majority of the time, however during the morning peak it frequently gets congested, particularly during term time, caused by both weight of traffic and deliveries forcing tailbacks as cars have to navigate around parked lorries and vans, the same issue is seen on London Road with unfortunately some inconsiderate parking by a minority. Solutions to this could include looking at the phasing of traffic lights and restrictions on loading and unloading at peak times.

At the top of the town we need to work with the highways authority to reduce the amount of unnecessary HGV traffic passing through the town, likewise large vehicles passing south through the town without the need to be there should be routed onto the A21.

The provision of new long stay parking in the town in one location has reduced the amount of traffic searching for somewhere to park.

Active High Streets are important and often the total exclusion of traffic can lead to a negative effect, both on the areas pedestrianised and those areas that take the increase in traffic that has been displaced.

So the simple answer to the question is no, but that doesn’t mean more can’t be done to make the town centre a more inviting proposition for pedestrians if we deliver some of the actions listed above.

Alan Cheeseman