I have always supported the aspiration to boost cycling and walking in Salisbury. Improving air quality and making the city a healthier place to live in and visit should be a priority for us. That is why I backed the attempt by Wiltshire Council to introduce an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) and Low Traffic Zone (LTZ) to help achieve these objectives. I commend them for their bold ambition in this area.
But the pandemic this year and now the second lockdown mean that traffic levels nationally remain significantly lower than normal. This creates huge challenges for an experimental scheme such as has been introduced in Salisbury. It’s impossible to accurately measure the impact of the scheme on traffic on the A36 or footfall levels in the city centre when our normal baseline has disappeared.
Earlier this week, I wrote to Philip Whitehead, leader of Wiltshire Council, outlining my concerns with the scheme and requesting that the project is suspended until next summer. It should not be reintroduced until traffic and footfall levels have returned to normal levels and we can accurately measure its impact.
It is also important that a much wider consultation takes place before a new scheme is introduced. I have received a large amount of correspondence from constituents who are concerned about the current project and argue that the interests of motorists and businesses outside the city centre have been ignored. Making sure these voices are included in a future consultation will be important in helping shape a scheme that enjoys wider support from local residents.
At a time of national crisis it’s important that we remain united in facing the challenges ahead. We should put the divisiveness of this issue behind us until we can consider the matter more carefully when normal times return.