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Power failure sparks calls for radical traffic rethink in Winchester
THE latest power cut to hit Winchester has reopened a debate about traffic management in the city centre.
Environmental groups and business leaders have supported a ‘shared space’ concept where traffic and pedestrians coexist without restrictions such as traffic lights.
It comes after part of Winchester High Street was blacked out from 8.45am last Thursday due to a cable fault in Southgate Street.
Traffic lights were out in Southgate Street, Jewry Street and St George’s Street throughout the day.
Southgate Street has suffered similar problems before, with traffic light failures twice in one week in 2009.
But reaction then was positive as traffic flowed more smoothly, with several residents calling for the lights to be removed.
Now more support has emerged for the introduction of shared space.
Stephen Gates, new chairman of Winchester Chamber of Commerce, said it could boost city businesses. He said: “If you look at Europe you can see there are definitely benefits in terms of allowing people to move around cities more easily and that suggests there would likely be benefits to businesses, both retail and office.
“The challenge is that businesses will still need to rely on deliveries and staff getting into work, but if that is not impacted upon then it is a good idea.”
Chris Turner, executive director of Winchester Business Improvement District, said: “We support shared space. We think there would be fewer queues and traffic travels much more gently. We see The Square as having a ‘shared space’ experiment at the moment. We know it works, there is a little stretch outside Barclays Bank on the High Street.
“We will be pushing the county council to put it in Jewry Street and when Silver Hill opens in St George’s Street."
Chris Gillham, of Winchester Friends of the Earth, also backed ‘shared space’. He said: “It means taking traffic lights out of the system and relying on the clear, obvious need for motorists to look out for everybody else. If lights were to stop experimentally and we could cope then it would be a good first step.
“What you have in Winchester at the moment is cars stopping and then speeding up only to get to the next jam. It does no good for the motorists or the emissions and pollution. If things were moving at a slower but steadier pace I think it would work better generally.”
Several High Street businesses lost out on thousands of pounds due to the blackout.
Lorne Robertson, manager of Italian restaurant ASK said he was unhappy to lose stock as well as takings.
He said: “This has hit us hard. We will lose about £4,000 from takings, but we have also lost everything in our fridges and freezers. You name it, we’ve lost it, and it’s probably going to cost us £6,500 altogether.”
Other shops that were closed included Waterstone’s, Travel Bag, the Royal Oak pub and independent coffee shop Caracoli.
Jewellery shop All That Glitters was able to stay open but only took £80 throughout the day.
Sales assistant Laura Anscombe said: “We’ve only been able to take cash because our card machines are down.
“It’s was coming up to Mother’s Day as well so we were expecting to be very busy and could have taken anything between £500-£700.”
Both ASK and All That Glitters confirmed they would be seeking compensation from Southern Electric for loss of earnings.
Southern Electric had teams of engineers on site all day but power was only restored by 11.30pm.
A spokesman said the problem took longer to fix because of the proximity of the low voltage cable to a high-voltage cable.
She added: “We would like to apologise to the customers who have been affected. We know it was frustrating and we thank them for their patience.”
The county council were asked for comment but had not responded.