City of Winchester Trust
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Transportation & the Historic Public Realm - TrustNews Dec 05

This was the theme of the English Historic Towns Forum Conference held in Oxford in October. It was of particular interest having heard Ben Hamilton Baillie's presentation following our AGM a few weeks earlier and it is worth noting the following points which were pertinent to Winchester's problems:
1. The view of Phil Godwin, Professor of Transport Policy at the University of the West of England, that it is impossible in historic towns to match supply to demand and therefore demand must be controlled by access charges. He gave Durham City as an example. Members who have visited Durham, before and after, will have noticed the new freedom for pedestrians in the Market Place and on the route up to the Cathedral. It is now all 'shared space'.
2. Several speakers talked of how such shared space causes drivers to respond to circumstances instead of relying on their 'rights' indicated by road signs. When driving through the restricted part of Winchester's High Street, one feels a little guilty about intruding and therefore drives slowly.
3. There is a general movement to improve streets by the removal and simplification of signs. The Department of Transport has been resistant to English Heritage pressure but is yielding. The professionals present were keen on improving the visual aspects of streets but they have to push gently. One speaker saw the need for political will and courage - as demonstrated by the Leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council - to challenge the traffic engineers who tend to regard the D.o.T. guidance as mandatory. He also expressed the view that the quality of design demanded by Local Authorities was set too low - a weakness which is all too evident in Winchester.