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FROME Market Place is on course for a more pedestrian-friendly future after the town council last week agreed to press ahead with its renovation plans.
Councillors all agreed to continue with a proposal to remove most of the parking around the Boyle Cross, to convert the Market Place to a 20mph limit and to add new crossings.
Plans were delayed when Mendip District Council refused to give permission for the Boyle Cross work in 2015, but the decision was overturned by the Government and the town council was paid compensation.
Now, the town will seek consent from Somerset County Council’s highways department to go ahead with the whole scheme.
The town’s economic and development regeneration manager, Peter Wheelhouse, said the Market Place was considered a “barrier to pedestrians” and that “the Market Place needs to be made more attractive”.
Councillor Mel Usher told Frome Times, “All town centres need managing if they are to resist the competition of internet shopping. Visitors and shoppers need to feel safe, recognised and ‘at home’ in pleasant surroundings.
“10,000 vehicles a day trundle through the Market Place and 1,000 people take their life in their hands crossing the road outside the Market Cross cafe.
“If history had been different and the area around Boyle Cross had been paved, and someone came along now and suggested ripping that out to put parking there, there would be uproar and certainly the highways professionals would turn it down flat.”
Plans for the Market Place were shown at the meeting last week and included making a 20mph zone between St John’s Church and North Parade, installing courtesy crossings for pedestrians, removing the railings at the junction with Cork Street, and widening bus laybys so traffic can continue when the buses stop.
Members of the public raised concern about narrowing the pavements, but Peter Wheelhouse said the pavements were particularly wide already, that the move wouldn’t affect businesses and would mean traffic could move smoothly through the Market Place, reducing pollution caused by standing vehicles.
The council has a reserve of £282,000 set aside for the plans, and may also need money from Mendip District Council or another council reserve. Cllr Usher assured that the town council has ‘saved enough’ to pay for the work.