Thursday, January 19, 2006


More restrictions declared

In my post of December 11th, I reported how a decision to impose traffic restrictions on the streets close to St John’s was communicated by the attaching of a single A4 sheet announcement to the church railings. Well, things have improved. Six single sheet A4 announcements have now been affixed to that number of lamp posts – three on the north side of the church between it and the Owain Glyndwr pub, and three the other side of the old library, a hundred and fifty yards away. This declares the intention of closing the adjacent streets to traffic from ten in the morning until midnight, a measure that could have a serious impact on evening activities at church, and on the trade done by local restaurants and pubs. So, I took down one of the notices and showed it to Kieran, who runs the excellent print shop in Church Street. He ran off some copies of the legal notice, and we devised a message to go on the back of it that could then be circulated to business most affected by this proposal, and I took copies around to a dozen or so local establishments. Needless to say, only two of a dozen businesses were aware of what was to happen in any detail. We’re going to try and organise a local traders meeting to consider a critical response to the Council in the next few days.

Protest, but probably in vain
When I talked later to Paul, the city centre manager, he seemed to think that implementation of the order was inevitable as this would bring it into line with nearby Queen Street, which is mostly shops, with few pubs and restaurants open evenings. They cope with restrictions, why not our small side-streets? Well, our little quarter of town has more small businesses, more to lose by access restrictions for their clientele. Our little quarter gives out on to St Mary Street, one of the town’s busiest thoroughfares. Traffic congestion from delivery vehicles in the streets is bad enough already with a road closure time of 11.00am. Move that to 10.00am and deliveries all have to enter and leave the centre earlier, adding to morning rush hour chaos, with large lorries entering and leaving the main traffic stream. Existing cramped conditions of access are about to become a stranglehold. It will not do our little quarter any good. And it will mean that those who have to manage traffic will have to work harder coping with all the special case permissions from people who need to come and go within the restricted times. Will it actually be enforceable? We’ll see. I’ve just finished writing, and have emailed objections to the scheme to the Chief Legal Officer of the County’s office, knowing that the protest will most likely fall on deaf ears.

Dependable evolution or risky revolution?

The Grand Plan for the re-ordering and development of the city centre, of which these traffic rearrangements are part, has been put into place more by determined promotion than by adequate consultation, whatever efforts politicians and local government officers think they have made. It’s not easy to ensure everyone is in the picture and shares in the debate. It’s the biggest challenge of any society, not to alienate citizens, but to succeed in hearing and responding to their concerns. Our church neighbours at Tabernacl Baptist will suffer badly when the SDII centre is up and running and they can’t get proper access to their building. I suppose those in power think of what they impose on others as ‘leadership’. They’ll be praised and thanked if such massive costly initiatives finally work, but with the changing economic climate, the risks taken in such a huge project may not be justifiable. We could end up with an under-used and under performing shopping centre, oversized for what it can achieve in the light of competition from the out of town shopping centres springing up everywhere across the region. Nobody wants that. It’s such a pity that a more evolutionary and adaptative approach to redeveloping the city centre wasn’t taken, as opposed to a vastly ambitious ‘quantum leap’ project, affecting so many people – as did the SDI development thirty years ago which emptied the city centre of its ‘urban village’ population. It’s a pity so little attention has been paid to improving the road system to handle the flows of traffic for big events, and for shopping access. No matter how wonderful the imposed future of shopping in Cardiff is likely to be, it’ll be bleak if people can’t get in to where they need to be to shop, eat, drink, be entertained. The poverty of road infrastructure is a kind of symbol of the poverty of communications at many levels in this situation.

No comments: