You may note there has been a lot of recent press about pedestrianising Lymington High Street on Market Days.
The Town Council has looked at alternative solutions to running the market in new ways to facilitate social distancing on Saturdays, and one of them was to turn the stalls into the road & close the High Street from the bottom of Gosport Street or close half the High Street from New Street.
The closure of the High Street for the Saturday market is something that has been considered many times before.
When this has most recently been discussed with Hampshire County Council (in 2018) it was dismissed due to the following reasons that made it unfeasible. These include;
- There are a large number of residential properties and businesses that have and need direct vehicular access to the High Street. These would be restricted from having access for 12 hours. (6am-6pm)
- Morebus and Blue Star buses current route drops off & pick up passengers outside Corals.
- The Post Office Depot, which has direct access from the High Street, has a universal service obligation to deliver post & parcels for 6 days of the week, with approximately 70 vehicular movements of vans and lorries coming in & out from the depot from 2am – 4pm (or 6pm at the moment) every Saturday. There is no other location that the post can be sorted in Lymington and there is no rear access to the depot.
- Any road closure has huge ramifications on the wider traffic in & around the town. An onsite meeting was carried out with Hampshire County Council when the temporary Road Traffic Order was introduced 18 months ago. The decision was that Captains Row is not able to sustain diverted traffic away from the High Street due to its narrowness. This does not allow a safe commodious route around the Town for the additional traffic or any large vehicles. Any road closure would likely have to be by Bridge Road to ensure traffic was diverted away from the Town.
- The one-way system is already abused and ignored with cars/bikes often driving/cycling against the flow of traffic, despite clear signage. Therefore marshals would be required to man the road closure from 6am – 6pm to ensure that only emergency vehicles and stallholders could enter & leave. This is not something that could be undertaken by volunteers and was cost-prohibitive to the Town Council.
The Town Council made contact with Hampshire County Council in May to discuss potential ways of improving the High Street to allow for social distancing measures during this pandemic. This is something that Hampshire County Council is looking at as part of their Covid-19 transport projects. They have not yet passed back any details but will revisit the feasibility of road closure and a temporary one-way system for every day of the week, the funding for this would come out of the Covid-19 transport project. They have confirmed these discussions are taking place as part of a Wave 2 of projects and will come back to the Town Council in due course.
I hope that this detail helps to explain some of the limitations the Town Council has regarding the closure of the High Street and the difficulty overcoming these, along with the wider impact on residents and traffic on market days.
We strive for a thriving, safe market and Town Council officers have spent many hours planning how to bring the market back to the Town, along with huge support from the traders in making their pitches as Covid safe as it is possible to be.