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Lichfield could be transformed if the city centre was fully pedestrianised to create a cafe culture, an MP has said.
Michael Fabricant said the rise of al fresco food and drink in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic could create a positive shift for the city.
The Conservative MP said moving disabled parking and putting limits on when deliveries would be the key.
“I have spoken in the past about continuing to work from home where possible when the pandemic is over with the consequence of less pollution and fewer blocked roads – but town and city planners should be flexible and learn from COVID-19 too.
“I believe that in Lichfield, the inner heart of the city – Bore Street, Bird Street, Market Street and Dam Street – should be permanently pedestrianised with access only for deliveries at specified times.
“Other cities have done this years ago to great success. Disabled parking can be made available adjacent to the pedestrianised zone and adequate parking – able and disabled – would have to be provided.
“A single retractable bollard in Tamworth Street, operated by an electronic pass, would ensure that only essential vehicles could still get through.
“It would transform the very essence of our city for the better.”Michael Fabricant MP
Social distancing measures introduced during the coronavirus crisis mean that businesses are utilising additional space outside premises in order to keep serving customers.
“The temporary pavement cafés allowed in Bore Street and elsewhere arising from emergency COVID legislation show the way.
“Pedestrianisation will encourage tourism and boost our local economy. The evidence from elsewhere in the country is that it becomes a magnet for visitors and results in a more imaginative and diverse retail and dining offer.
“It would need imagination and flexibility from Staffordshire County Council who have authority over highways, but even they may have to admit that keeping cobble-stoned Bird Street open as a traffic throughway is neither practical nor desirable.”Michael Fabricant MP
“Pedestrianisation is always controversial”
The current one way route through Lichfield city centre offers disabled parking spaces.
“Of course, I am well aware that pedestrianisation is always controversial.
“The able and disabled understandably and inevitably worry initially about access while shop keepers are concerned about reduced passing trade.
“But elsewhere over the last forty years, pedestrianisation has been shown to encourage footfall and make for a cleaner and more pleasant shopping and dining experience – and this rewards locals as well as visitors.
“Pedestrianisation logically follows on from the cobble stoning of the city centre.
“While this is essentially a council matter, I have asked Lichfield District Council leader, Cllr Doug Pullen, to give this matter some thought and I hope that it will eventually be incorporated into the council’s developing plans for Lichfield’s future.”Michael Fabricant MP