Below my questions and answer from Stoke on Trent officers
What measures are to be put in place to prevent negative impact on the proposed public realm improvements in Albion Square and Parliament Square, from the proposed relaxation of access to Percy Street and Tontine Street?
We do not expect there to be a significant increase in the volume of traffic in Albion Square or Parliament Square as a result of the relaxation of the access restrictions for Percy Street to allow access for loading and unloading of goods at any time rather than before 10am and after 5pm. It will mean that there will be some traffic in the two squares during the day which would otherwise have to travel through at quieter times but the relaxation of access has to be balanced against the significant inconvenience and potential for businesses to be forced to relocate if the Council were to retain a strict ban on loading and unloading between 10am and 5pm. Allowing access for loading and unloading will not permit a through route and parking to enable the delivery or collection of goods is limited to three loading bays in Percy Street and one in Stafford Street. If the volume of legitimate traffic becomes significant, consideration may be given to developing a permit arrangement to allow access.
While it would be nice to think residents and shoppers would respect the public realm, having access from Tontine Street down Albion Street would appear to offer a through route, which may be abused during construction of City Sentral when delays will no doubt exist on the ring road.
It should be noted that Tontine Street is not affected by the loading access relaxation, only Percy Street and the route through for deliveries from Old Hall Street via Percy Street and Stafford Street will be affected.
Access to Tontine Street will be restricted so there will be no motor vehicles permitted in the street between 10am and 5pm. There will also be no parking in the street during those hours so anyone using the road between 10am and 5pm will be in contravention of the traffic regulations. Enforcement of access restrictions currently lies with the police rather than the Council and clearly the police have their own priorities so we do not expect there to be a significant level of enforcement. The possibility of retaining the existing one-way direction in Tontine Street has been discussed by officers in order to create a less attractive route for access and the need for any extraneous vehicles to “loop the loop” via Percy Street and Stafford Street. This may still be a possibility if your concerns actually transpire.
Is it not possible to offer relocation grants to business affected so that the Vision of a completely traffic free Public Realm can be kept to, thus encouraging more visitors to the Centre.
The Council does not have the resources to offer relocation grants to businesses in the City Centre and, in any case, would not wish to see any loss if shops and other businesses to out-of-centre locations. All businesses need access for deliveries and for other purposes and we think we have struck a reasonable balance between the needs of businesses and the needs of pedestrians.
If a further rethink is required can the use of Pall Mall by buses again be looked at instead of North Stafford Street, we only have one chance to redesign Hanley, lets make it the best possible and not just a design that fits around problems.
The issue of how best to allow buses to access the northern part of the City Centre while travelling to and from the new bus station has been discussed and debated for nearly 2 years and the current proposals are considered to be the best way to manage the conflicting priorities. Seeking to remove traffic from Stafford Street has been one of the Council’s objectives for the City Centre, but it is not possible to achieve that objective without increasing the volume of buses and taxis in other roads, such as Pall Mall, unless buses and taxis are excluded from the City Centre completely and made to use Potteries Way. The Council has also needed the co-operation of bus operators in order to make the changes in bus routes work or it could have been faced with a public inquiry and a 12 month delay in opening the new bus station which would have been unacceptable. Bus routes in the City Centre will always be a compromise between the needs and objectives of bus operators, pedestrians, bus users, businesses, potential investors, the City Council, and other interested parties. We have examined a number of alternatives and the current proposals cause the fewest problems, albeit there remain a number of compromises in the routes and to the public realm improvements.