An example of direct democracy this week, as a majority of local residents have voted against a council proposal to pedestrianise their town centre. In a poll last week, some 1,700 local voters turned down Wiltshire Council’s plan to widen pavements and install 25 pedestrian crossing points marked with bollards in the centre of the pretty country town. Not only were there concerns that it would have disfigured the historic core, but many traders feared it would further discourage much-needed shoppers from driving into the town.
"It would have transformed it, made it look bright and tidy and, dare I say, modern," said the disappointed Mayor of Bradford on Avon. "Wiltshire [Council], which has spent quite a lot of money on this project, will be a bit disappointed to realise it's all been rather wasted."
Local protesters against the project will be relived. "The daft things that they do, have done and are planning to do have cost a fortune and we are worse off now than ever," one local resident told me. The poll itself cost £6,000 to conduct.
At one point local businesspeople feared they would have no say over the proposals. "I have been a business owner for seven years," said one shopkeeper before the vote was announced. "I have invested lots, and contributed to the local economy and employment, yet my understanding is I won’t get a vote. I feel entirely useless that I will not be able to vote on it, but my livelihood will be affected by it."
Her voice has now been heard and it is hoped that will be an end to it. However, in Bath, the council has announced more plans to shut off streets to cars in the city centre, concerning some local residents and businesses. "It is impossible now for the locals to pop into town for the bank or a quick shop," says one.
"They’ve had this in Oxford for several years and now only buses and taxis have access to the centre," a local trader told me. "The problem is it doesn’t do any good for the small independents and instead Oxford is now overrun with chain shops."
Good on Bradford on Avon for giving the people a say - and we hope there's plenty of consultation in the future whenever such major changes are suggested.