Earlier this month Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council revealed its Market Place and Underbanks Access Plan, with consultation ending this weekend. Permanent and timed closures of these tiny streets, new cycle links and more pedestrianisation could give this remarkable area another huge boost.
It’s perhaps not often that a council plan delivers exactly what you’ve wanted — and moreover, what’s needed. Those times you’ve sighed “why are cars allowed here” or “this shouldn’t be such a rat run” or “it’s a shame they can’t make this more of a space for people”. Well, this one goes a long way to solve those issues and, in some cases, goes even further than I would’ve expected.
As ever, it’s really important to actually fill out the consultation — just a series of tick boxes if you’re pushed for time. Do it now. It’s always astonishing how few responses these consultations actually receive and — not to sway your opinion or anything — this one really deserves support.
The main thrust is an extension of the current timed road closures to mostly 10:30am to midnight, allowing for deliveries and genuine access but otherwise effectively making these lovely pedestrianised (and cycle-friendly) spaces for the rest of the day.
Here are a few other key points:
Millgate/Churchgate rat run no more!
Just why have cars been allowed to cut through this end of the Market Place for so long? Today a constant stream of traffic basically uses Millgate and Churchgate as a way to avoid using all the billions of other roads in the town which do exactly the same thing (including St Mary’s Way, recently widened at huge expense). This cuts not only the landmark St Mary’s Church but the Market Place’s main car park off from the area itself.
An actual crossing would’ve been welcome, but instead Stockport are proposing a full road closure between the church and market hall. Yes! This is brilliant both for walking and cycling.
Putting this in place will immediately transform the road. No more losing minutes of your life waiting to cross. No more a rather intimidating place to cycle but a brilliant, calm cycle route into and through the old town, really opening it up as a cycle-friendly destination.
St Petersgate bridge closed to traffic
The beautiful icon of Stockport which crosses Little Underbank at high level could be closed entirely to traffic, reserved for pedestrians and cycles. It’s somehow currently a two-way road.
With the timed closures on Marketplace itself, this means all four sides of the historic market hall will be reserved for people.
St Petersgate contraflow cycle lane and crossing
The main link into the Market Place from the direction of the A6 and St Peter’s Square is currently one-way only for all traffic. The proposal here is to add a contraflow cycle lane, allowing it to be used in both directions as a route in and out.
The thought is appreciated, but the details are sketchy. There’s no sign of any protection (eg. kerbs, wands) on the plans (definitely worth mentioning this when filling out the consultation), and these kinds of painted contraflow lanes can become quite abused by drivers and dangerous places to be, especially when numerous side roads are thrown into the mix.
A quick glance on Streetview, and I’m not even sure how parking bays and a traffic lane and a cycle lane can even fit there. Keeping a few pithy parking bays here when Stockport has literally so many car parks (including directly off this street) feels like a cop-out.
One final proposal is to replace the existing zebra crossing from St Peter’s Square with a traffic light-controlled crossing. Cycles are given their own little stubs of cycle lane and crossing phase to cross straight into our out of the square’s shared space, a good way to make this feel more like a complete “route”.
Stockport rightly gets a lot of stick online for missing the mark on some of its cycling schemes, and for still, unfathomably, avoiding the issue of cycling on the A6 entirely, but it has a good record on pedestrianised spaces.
When people wail that the River Mersey should be opened up through the town (basically making a dank hole without huge further demolition), they seem to forget that the massive pedestrianised Merseyway shopping centre (a real pioneer in its day) used to be a dual-bloody-carriageway over the river. So, not as bad as it could’ve been (there’s a town slogan!).
Some 56 years later, it’s great to see wider pedestrianisation finally proposed for the glorious Old Town.