The part-time pedestrianisation of Bath’s most popular streets is still controversial among shopkeepers as Bath and North East Somerset Council make the rules permanent.
Some businesses on Milsom Street feel that the ban on driving down the road between 10am and 6pm has had a negative impact on their customers.
Linda Browne is a Florist at OKA. She said: “It’s impacted us quite a lot. […] We have had a lot of customers that have been quite upset about it.”
She added: “People are still driving down Milsom Street and being snapped and charged.”
But other traders were more positive. A member of staff at Hobbs said she had not worked there long enough to know what the street was like before, but said: “We are very busy and I don’t think it has impacted our business in any way.”
Adam has worked at the Reiss store on the street for a few years, although he does not speak for the business, and he said: “It’s had quite a positive impact on Milsom Street.”
He added that there had been more footfall on the road since the scheme had been in place and said: “Business is pretty good for us.”
He said: “The feedback from customers has always been quite positive. It’s certainly changed the atmosphere and the vibe of Milsom Street, with not having all the traffic come down it.”
But some traders say there have been other impacts of making the street car-free.
One salesperson commented they had seen no real impact on footfall, but she said: “If someone wants to pick up something from us, they can’t quickly stop outside. […] They could do before 10, but we are not open.”
Staff now sometimes have to come in half an hour early so that customers can pick up items, she said.
Ms Browne said that, although there were more people walking down Milsom Street, the inability to park on the street had an impact on people with disabilities..
The scheme has been criticised in the past for making it more difficult for people with disabilities to get around the city centre.
But Manda Rigby, the council cabinet member for transport, said that the council had tried to minimise the impact. She said: “We have been monitoring the temporary restriction since we introduced it in June 2020.
“We have spoken to and considered feedback from residents, businesses, bus operators and stakeholders, including Blue Badge holders, in order to weigh up views very carefully before making this decision.
“Without a doubt, preventing vehicles other than buses along Milsom Street has made for a much more pleasant, less congested and much safer space.
“Feedback from the bus operators has been very positive and while it is not directly provable if the closure has had a direct impact, it is reassuring to see retail units are almost at full occupancy for the first time in two years.
“However, this decision also affects people with disabilities and deliveries. Due to changes in various roads in the city centre, we commissioned an independent accessibility study and listened to concerns.
“We have made several adjustments to assist people with limited mobility, as well as businesses and residents with their deliveries, which we believe balances the impact of the 10am-6pm restriction while keeping the benefits that a congestion-free Milsom Street has enjoyed.”
She said: “Although it is no longer possible for vehicles to park or drop off [or] pick up passengers in Milsom Street between 10am and 6pm, we have provided additional Blue Badge parking bays less than 50 metres away in Quiet Street and approximately 70 metres away in New Bond Street.
“Using John Street and Quiet Street as alternative access, it is still possible for a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge to drop off or pick up within 30 metres of the bottom of Milsom Street.”
John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter