Post Covid world? Proposals to put pedestrians at the core of Aylsham’s recovery.
Pedestrianisation, a hopper bus and a new long-stay car park are among the ideas put forth in a new plan that could guide one town’s post-pandemic future.
The Aylsham - Shaping the Future document - produced by the town council’s Cittaslow committee - proposes “reshaping the streetscape” to adapt the town’s medieval layout to the 21st century, making it safer for pedestrians and shoppers.
The document calls for the town centre to be less dominated by traffic, while making it easier for people living on outlying estates and nearby villages to get into the centre.
Patrick Prekopp, chairman of Cittaslow Aylsham, said the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown that followed offered a chance to take a fresh look at how our towns work, and how they could be improved.
Mr Prekopp said: “Lockdown forced us to re-think the way we live, making us more aware of our environment and sustainability, particularly in our shopping habits.
“There is now an opportunity to use this experience to help remodel our surroundings to allow people to better enjoy and move around Aylsham safely.
“How we choose to do this is in the hands of the townspeople and surrounding villagers whose views will determine Aylsham’s destiny in a post-Covid world.”
The council wants to gather as many views as possible on the plans from anyone who lives in Aylsham or visits the town for work, shopping or recreation, and has launched an online survey at www.aylsham-tc.gov.uk/shaping-aylshams-future.
The survey will run until Christmas, and afterwards the town council will publish its findings and host a forum where people can further discuss the plans.
Sue Lake, town clerk, said: “We will then see how the necessary changes can be implemented in terms of costs and logistics and take things from there.
“If necessary, we’ll start lobbying Broadland District Council and Norfolk County Council and even further afield.”
Aylsham is typical of many market towns with a historic core characterised by narrow streets, surrounded by more established residential areas, and newer estates built in past few decades.
Due to the new estates the town’s population has boomed from 5,500 in 2001 to around 8,200 today.
Among the proposals outlined in the document are:
-Making one of the town’s busiest shopping streets, Red Lion Street, east-to-west one way. This would allow the pavements to be widened. The pavements are currently too narrow for wheelchairs, and so narrow in parts someone has to step out into the road to pass another pedestrian.
-Running a ‘hopper’ bus around the town, including to the Norfolk Homes, Willow Park and Bure Meadows estates, connecting to a park-and-ride/long-stay car park site off Burgh Road, between Aegel House and the car boot sale field.
-Other potential sites for a long-stay car park are agricultural land near the former Aylsham Motel on Norwich Road, or land at Keys saleyard off Palmer’s Lane.
-Market Place, which is a short-stay car park when events are not being held, could be mostly pedestrianised, with just 12 parking spaces and a stop for the hopper bus.
The plan asks: “Could the Market Place then be reconfigured so that it is available throughout the week as an area for people to spend leisure time, to have the space to linger and appreciate the wealth of historic buildings?”
-Putting a two-hour time limit on the town’s off-street car parks at Butts Land and Burgh Road - where vehicles are often left all day - preventing their use by shoppers on shorter trips into town.
The town became the second in the UK to gain Cittaslow status in 2005 - part of an international movement to improve the quality of life in communities, while improving the environment and encouraging local produce and products.
Lloyd Mills, town council chairman, said the document could build on the work put into the Aylsham Neighbourhood Plan, which was adopted last year.
Mr Mills said: “It’s now time for us all to stop and think about how we want to go forward with our lives, particularly in the light of Covid and climate change. The consultation document and associated survey will enable us to gain an even greater understanding of what the people of Aylsham want. The results of the survey will affect decisions that the town council makes.”
Councillor Shaun Vincent, Broadland council’s leader, said it was unclear what the post-Cvid future would hold for our towns and villages, “but we do know that it’s going to be different”.