Gloucester Conservatives have announced that they will bring forward plans to renew the tired paving in the pedestrianised areas of Eastgate and Westgate Street if they remain in control of the City Council after May’s elections. The pledge is included in the Party’s manifesto for the council elections on May 7th.
Eastgate Street was the first of the gate streets to be pedestrianised in the 1980s, with Westgate Street following shortly afterwards. Apart from some decluttering works in the early 2000s and ongoing repair work, the streets are largely unchanged from when the paving was first laid three decades ago. Northgate and Southgate Streets were pedestrianised in the late 1990s.
Plans have already been announced by the Council to replace the litter bins in the city centre and street furniture, like bollards and posts, is due to be repainted shortly with the help of volunteers. The work forms part of a “Public Realm Strategy”, which is due to go out for public consultation shortly ,which will promote quality and consistency in the materials used in the city centre streets and public spaces.
Although, strictly speaking, roads and pavements are the responsibility of the County Council, it is not unusual for district councils to make significant investment in the public realm in order to promote the vibrancy of the city centre and encourage economic growth. Improvements to the public realm are proven to lever in more investment from the private sector.
The works, which could cost several million pounds, would be funded from capital receipts when the Council sells land or other windfalls the council receives. The Council has already started to put aside funds in a “Regeneration Reserve” which could be used for this purpose.
Council Leader Paul James said, “We recognise that the paving in Eastgate and Westgate Street is looking tired and doesn’t make a positive contribution to the city centre environment. The County Council can continue to make repairs but at some point we will need to grasp the nettle and renew it completely. It’s not something that will happen overnight and we will only do it when we can afford it, but the Council does have assets that will be developed over the next few years and we will prioritise those funds for this purpose.”
He added, “It is proven that investment of this kind reaps benefits from additional private investment. The Kings Quarter development, important though it is, on its own won’t be enough. We want to lift the whole of the city centre.”
Westgate councillor and city centre champion Paul Toleman said, “I am regularly reporting issues that need repair to the County Council, but a major investment is needed and I believe it would be a real benefit and improve the city centre environment.”
The City Council has already made a multi-million investment in land acquisition for the Kings Quarter scheme and put aside £2 million from the sale of land at St Oswalds Park for projects to support the city centre, including cladding ugly buildings and relocating the Tourist Information Centre to bigger premises in Westgate Street.