£1million revamp planned for St Ives town centre

A ONE million pound re-vamp of St Ives town centre could halve the number of parking spaces and involve moving the town s war memorial. Although Huntingdonshire District Council s plans for Market Hill are aimed at making the area more pedestrian-friendly

A ONE million pound re-vamp of St Ives town centre could halve the number of parking spaces and involve moving the town's war memorial.

Although Huntingdonshire District Council's plans for Market Hill are aimed at making the area more pedestrian-friendly, parking for disabled people will be retained, and buses could still use the square if it were decided to restore it as part of the route to Ramsey Road and Huntingdon.

The plans, which are expected to be put to HDC's cabinet in September and the district's traffic management committee the following month, are the second phase of the council's town centre upgrade plans. But the new town council has serious reservations.

Further proposals for the Sheep Market area opposite Boots and Budgens are expected in due course, and work to widen Harrison Way at the eastern end of Station Road and install traffic lights to enable guided buses to cross is expected to start later this year.

Bridge Street and Crown Street were improved four or five years ago, and the street lights in Market Hill have already been upgraded.

"What we are looking at is reducing parking, widening the pavements and making it more pedestrian-friendly with fewer changes of level," said Chris Allen, HDC's projects and assets manager. "The council is investing more money, led by economic development, with a budget of £1million. We need to keep the market towns viable by making them look good, and the guided bus offers a good chance to attract custom to St Ives."

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Mr Allen said the scheme was being designed so that, if the decision were taken to route buses through the town centre - as operator Stagecoach would like - no changes would be needed. Rising bollards for use by emergency service vehicles are already in place in The Pavement - one of the high street's seven names in its half-mile length.

The plan will be to retain the same provision for disabled parking, but to displace other vehicles to town centre car parks.

"We are looking at a better layout for the market, and that might involve moving the war memorial to outside the Town Hall. Whether Oliver Cromwell's statue is moved depends on the final design."

The scheme, on which St Ives Civic Society has been consulted informally, will involve similar paving to Bridge Street, together with new "street furniture" (such as signs, railings and litter bins).

HDC hopes its investment will attract cash for further improvements from the county and town councils.

But it has agreed to consult further, firstly with St Ives organisations, including the town council, before going to public consultation later in the year.

Councillor Ian Dobson, Mayor of St Ives, said a new advisory group would meet for the first time in July. It would include two members of the town council, and he would also ask to attend its meetings.

"St Ives has a unique town centre, but nothing should stand still. There are improvements to be made," he told The Hunts Post. "There's a lot to be done in terms of consultation with residents and directly-affected businesses. So far, only selective consultation has occurred.

"Environmental improvements should always achieve a balance with commercial vitality and transport needs."

St Ives Civic Society plans to call a public meeting on the issue shortly. "Our main concerns are the dramatic change in parking arrangements and the difficulties for retailers," said the society's Paula Luter.

"There's also a feeling that there has not been much discussion with the people who live here. I believe the market traders are up in arms too."

The war memorial was built between 1919 and 1921 and lists the names of 101 men and one nursing sister who gave their lives in the Great War and World War II.

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