Ludlow Town Council last night received an update on repairs to the Buttercross. Councillors heard that repairs are underway but no date for completion is available.

A lot depends on the weather and a skilled task like this will take time. Once the repairs are substantially complete, King Street can be reopened though the closure between 10am and 3pm on Fridays and Saturdays will remain in force until the experimental traffic regulation order is revoked.

The damage

King Street was closed from the end of June on Fridays and Saturdays to promote social distancing. This was extended to a full 24-hour closure over seven days after the Buttercross was hit by a truck on 4 August.

Work has started almost two months to the day on the repairs. The Grinshill stone is in stock and cut. But repairing a Grade I listed building is not as simple as building a brick wall. Lime mortar will not set at a temperature lower than 5C. The weather forecast is good with temperatures average for this time of year though yet more heavy rain is due Friday.

The closure of King Street for social distancing has worked. There is still a lack of social distancing as people pass each other by but these are not moments of significant danger as the period in proximity for people from different households or bubbles is short. We see nothing like the crowding through the narrows that we used to experience outside Vaughan’s or on the impossibly narrow corner at Costa Coffee. There is space to look at shop windows and to queue for a sarnie from Vaughan’s. It is hugely improved pedestrian environment.

But there are consequences. Heavy traffic on the Linney and on Dinham has caused damage to three properties and much disturbance and aggravation for residents. Not only do they have to suffer the noise, some residents have become impromptu traffic managers to guide HGVs through the twists of Linney and to negotiate the ascent and descent of Dinham.

The Shropshire Council (King Street, Ludlow) (Experimental Prohibition of Motor Vehicles) Order 2020 (POMV) came into effect on 26 June 2020 for a period of up to eighteen months. This prohibits all motor vehicles from using King Street in Ludlow between 10am and 3pm every Friday and Saturday except for emergency vehicles, those directed by the police, and people engaged in repairs along King Street. We have also agreed access for funerals.

The town council did not discuss lifting the POMV order last night and it will remain in place when King Street opens.

I think the closure of King Street for limited periods works. It makes our town more welcoming for pedestrians and reduces the conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles. It works for traders on King Street also. We should consider keeping it permanently but that debate must await a future council meeting.

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