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Gay Village Road Closure: What Are The Implications?

Jonathan Schofield says it's time to think about city pedestrianisation

Written by . Published on August 2nd 2012.

Gay Village Road Closure: What Are The Implications?

A SECTION of the city centre’s gay village is being turned into a pedestrian only area from the weekend following huge support from residents and businesses.

The pedestrianisation of Sackville Street within the gay village on Friday and Saturday evenings will help create a better experience and safer environment for visitors to the area.

A busy stretch of Sackville Street is to be closed to cars during weekend nights from Friday August 3 to improve road safety for people visiting the area.

The street will be closed, between its junctions with Brazil Street and Richmond Street, creating a large pedestrianised zone that also includes Canal Street.

The scheme has been supported by people visiting the village as well as by businesses and Greater Manchester Police who said it will reduce the number of road accidents and crimes in the area.

Bollards will be used to turn Sackville Street into a pedestrianised area from 8pm-5.30am on Friday and Saturday nights as well as on nights before bank holidays and during special events. Emergency services vehicles will still have access to the street.

Councillor Bernard Priest, Manchester City Council’s executive member for neighbourhood services said: "Manchester’s gay village attracts thousands of people from all over the world to the city centre, and this scheme will encourage even more visitors to come and enjoy the excellent pubs and clubs we have on offer, while it was also improve road safety for people visiting the village."

Andrew Stokes, chair of the Village Business Association (VBA), said: "The pedestrianisation of Sackville Street within the gay village on Friday and Saturday evenings will help create a better experience and safer environment for visitors to the area.

"The geographical layout of the village and the proximity to each other of so many of the city’s LGBT businesses is one of Manchester’s biggest tourism and night time economy assets. Any policy that supports and improves that product has the backing of the VBA."

The Limits Of Pedestrianisation

This seems like a decent plan. Limited and targeted pedestrianisation to cope with pressure points during the day and night makes sense.

If it works on Sackville Street, then perhaps the city could look at Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter and have that pedestrianised on weekend evenings too. 

At the same time as creating limited pedestrianisation the city should look at removing blanket 24 hour pedestrianisation from Market Street, King Street and St Ann's Square. It is simply not needed after 8pm. 

Different solutions are needed for different areas of the city and the clumsy catch-all fashion of three decades and more ago, when the pedestrianisation of Market Street was imposed, is now defunct.

Instead the limited pedestrianisation of Cross Street - 11am to 7pm - should be the name of the game.

As a tour guide who talks to other tour guides, Market Street in particular is a street nobody takes guests down.

Devoid of customers and all the shops shuttered it becomes a spooky ghost town often populated by ne'er-do-wells. Sadly it's the same for King Street.

The reassuring dynamism of passing taxis and other vehicles makes streets feel more comfortable, more attractive, especially at night if they are sparsely populated.

At the same time the extra activity would surely be welcomed by the retailers, providing promotional opportunities as more people pass down the streets in the evening, at a time when the effect of the out-of-town shopping centres such as the Trafford Centre, the growth of internet buying, the purblind city council parking policy, and the recession, are all burning shopkeepers badly. 

So while Sackville Street's limited closing seems sound, it's perhaps time to think again about pedestrianisation across the city centre in ways relevant to 2012.

Jonathan Schofield

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Steeve HobbsAugust 2nd 2012.

I can’t help thinking that Chorlton Street, particularly between Canal Street and Richmond Street (next to Churchill’s) also needs pedestrianising. The speed of buses and taxis is ludicrous in such a built up area.

Charlie HulmeAugust 2nd 2012.

Perhaps it wouldn't be 'devoid of customers' if all the shops weren't shuttered. British town centres are blighted by all this ugly shuttering: in other countries people stroll down such streets in the evening enjoying the window-shopping.

1 Response: Reply To This...
dalai guevaraAugust 2nd 2012.

Like Athens perhaps?

Remember, Britain's GDP is generated in the Square Mile - and with that currently imploding, expect to see more of that shuttering and boarding up.

AnonymousAugust 7th 2012.

One problem is that it didn't happen last weekned And it left drivers going up Sackville Street ,when they got to the single still limp bollard ( the bollard that is) to wonder whether it would spring up and hit them It is of course an emblem of the Village costing £50K.

The Village is rather desperate with some bars having posters suggesting women are not welcome at the door. It remains a dangerous place with Pinks Angels to protect you. The cops have gone home.

Closing the street will neither make the place safer or reduce road accidents (there have been none in the relevant hours for years.

But this is not the serious side of pedestrianisation. The City Center (indicative) Transport Strategy implies the 'Chester soultion' with no driving THOUGH the City Centre Thiis was confirmed to me by GMITO officials long ago, and recently reiterated by senior Manchester Councillors. Closing this part of Sackville Street permanently and might be apart of this. Whether THROUGH traffic on Whitworth Street, Oxford Street or Deansgate would survive is a moot point.

The point is that pedestrianisation has to be considered in the context of traffic management and indeed planning. not as a gimmick.

As for the Village, a proper sensitive and imaginative area plan might save it or is the fate of Twisted Wheel" and earnest of demolitions to come?

AnonymousAugust 7th 2012.

Shops are shuttered Dalia because of insurance risk assessment It's an extension of H&S

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 10th 2012.

What's the link between Health and Safety legislation and insurance risk? The risk that broken glass will cause injury and result in a personal injury claim? I doubt it. More likely to do with reducing the risk of burglary and vandalism.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2012.

Bus Priority rather than Pedestrianisation rules. See what is proposed for the City Centre for buses. here
and use the link to the map The note proposed CHANGES. so the coloured bits are on top or replace existing flows I think.

Poster BoyAugust 10th 2012.

You're on the right bus Jonathan, but different time zones across the city would be a logistical nightmare -and this city doesn't want cars in it's centre. That much is obvious.

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