RADICAL proposals to revamp Highcliffe high street with a new “café culture” include imposing a 20mph speed limit, removing parking bays and widening pavements.
The suggestions to make the village centre “less congested and chaotic” have been unveiled by the parish council which announced last year that it was looking at ways to revitalise it.
It employed consultants Paul Basham Associates to look at ways the A337 Lymington Road through the community could be improved and made more attractive for visitors.
As a result, a leaflet outlining the proposals has been delivered to residents and businesses in the village and a drop-in exhibition was recently held at the Old School outlining the plans.
Among the suggestions are free parking sessions in the Wortley Road car park to help “remove the dominance” of vehicles in the village centre, and a new zebra crossing.
Increased road signage for cyclists is aimed at improving safety while it will also “encourage through traffic to take another route on the basis that pedestrians and cyclists have priority”.
There will also be a reduction in “trip and bump hazards” making it safer for people using mobility aids including scooters and wheelchairs.
In its leaflet the council acknowledged that “elements of the proposals may well spark strong debate” but added the aim was to “foster a more continental-style atmosphere built around a café culture”.
It hoped the improvements will lead to people spending more time in the village centre helping businesses, as well as promoting social distancing amid the pandemic.
Cllr Andy Martin told the A&T that the council wanted to make the High Street as “vibrant and sustainable as possible”.
He said: “We want to make it a more pleasant environment for pedestrians. Getting the lines of parked cars off the High Street will help us to obtain that.
“At present you have cars pulling in and out of parking bays all the time and people trying to cross the road in between the gaps.
“Widening the pavements once the bays have gone will make the village centre a safer and nicer place to be. It will also be a better environment for businesses.”
Cllr Martin said there would be at least two disabled parking bays kept on the high street.
Speaking about the 20mph speed limit proposal, he said: “In the summer it may seem like there is just one long traffic jam in the village centre but at other times we have traffic, including big lorries, speeding through at 30-40mph.
“Reducing the speed limit will make the high street safe for both pedestrians and cyclists.”
He said feedback from residents and businesses to the proposals to improve the High Street had been “very, very supportive”.
The parish council, he added, are due to discuss the “way forward” at a meeting next Monday.
He said: “We hope to sit down with BCP Council, and we think they will be in favour of what are some really good ideas and give us their support.
“BCP Council encourage the vitality of district centres. Improving the high street was our absolute top priority when the parish council was formed last year.”
Funding for the improvements will come from developers’ contributions, BCP Council, central government grants and parish council funds. Any major works will need the blessing of BCP Council to go ahead.