Update Monday evening. Without notice to the town council or anyone else, Shropshire Council decided not to lift the road closure on King Street today. A meeting was needed with contractors as the council no longer does hands on work like moving barriers itself. Instructions needed to be entered onto a database. The computer will trigger an action by contractors and no doubt instructions will be passed on to subcontractors. Not for the first time, I wonder how much public money is spent on managing contractors who manage subcontractors… rather than just doing the job with in-house council staff. It is time Shropshire Council brought highways work back in-house. 

Ludlow Town Council has announced the Buttercross repairs are complete and King Street will reopen tomorrow, Monday. That will relieve traffic pressure, including HGVs, from Dinham and Linney where they have caused damage. King Street will remain closed between 10am and 3pm on Fridays and Saturdays to promote social distancing in the Narrows.

We now need to think about managing traffic in the town centre and across Ludlow as a whole. This will not be as straightforward as we might wish. But a big debate on how we ease Ludlow’s traffic problems in the shorter and longer term is long overdue. The time to start that discussion is now.

The repair is first class

We have always had an issue balancing the needs of residents, traders and visitors in Ludlow’s historic town streets. It has got worse as traffic has increased. More important than the volume of traffic is the increased size of vehicles. The desire of people to drive SUVs – there was time when people bought smaller cars to save fuel but that seems to have long ended. Delivery vehicles are larger – the largest regular vehicles are the brewery drays.

Unlike some other historic towns, we do not have service streets behind the retail frontages. All deliveries are to the front door.

A weight limit makes sense. There are two types:

  • Structural weight limits, most often 7.5 tonnes, can be imposed when the condition of a bridge or road is inadequate to take the weight of lorries and their loads. All the town bridges are capable of taking 44 tonne vehicles.
  • Environmental weight limits and lorry bans are introduced after consultation with local communities and road haulage groups. The aim to improve the quality of life for communities by reducing the intrusion of lorries into residential areas.

An environmental weight limit might be the best option for Ludlow. The difficulty with that is most restrictions of this type impose a weight limit “except for access”. Except for lost HGVs and coaches, and we have had several of those of late, all large and heavy vehicles coming into the town centre are accessing it for deliveries to retails premises and residences.

We could alternatively, or additionally, restrict times of delivery to before 10am and after 3pm, or before 11am and after 4pm. Some couriers already decant deliveries to smaller vehicles on the outskirts to the town centre and perhaps that should become the norm. Getting agreement on that with all will take some time.

We should continue the middle of day closure of King Street to all traffic. The environment for all the retailers has improved with the road closure and it is hugely better for pedestrians. The current experimental traffic order is limited to Fridays and Saturdays, 10am 3pm and will remain in place for the time being. Should it be our ambition to extend that to seven days a week? The plastic barriers currently used interrupt the historic beauty of the vista along King Street towards the Buttercross. In a long term plan, we should replace them with rising bollards.

The narrows on Saturday – social distancing and a comfortable experience

Tourist coaches bring a lot of business to our town. But should they be allowed to go as far as Mill Street to drop off and pick up?

Any proposals for the town centre cannot be looked at in isolation. If we restrict traffic in area, it will often be displaced elsewhere, as we have seen during the King Street closure. That led to damage to properties and parked vehicles on Linney and Dinham.

We need to take a whole town approach. That must include upgrading the park and ride site to encourage people to use buses to get into town.

We will explore all the options with residents, the Chamber of Trade, local businesses, Ludlow Town Council and Shropshire Council in the coming months. Shirehall will have the final say as it is the highways authority. But we are some way from making formal proposals to Shropshire Council.

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