Council leaders say banning most cars from a major traffic ‘pinch-point’ will boost local businesses and make the area more attractive.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is planning to spend around £18 million of Government funding on the changes to Station Road and College Road in Shelton, as part of the wider Transforming Cities programme.
Part of the scheme will see all through traffic – apart from buses – barred from Station Road and College Road, up to its junction with Avenue Road. There will still be access to businesses.
Council chiefs say the main reason for this is to make it easier for buses to travel between Stoke Station and the city centre, in order to boost public transport use.
But they also believe it will turn College Road into a semi-pedestrianised ‘boulevard’ within a wider ‘station quarter’, which will encourage commuters and visitors to use local businesses.
Consultation with residents and businesses in the area is due to start soon, with the Transforming Cities programme set to be completed by March 2024.
Councillor Dan Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration and transport at the council, says that while the road changes may cause some ‘short-term pain’, there will be benefits to the area in the long-run.
He said: “Traffic modelling indicates that the majority of traffic going down College Road and along Station Road to the lights at Leek Road is through traffic. They are people driving that way to avoid the queues along Leek Road.
“That causes congestion along College Road at peak hours. Removing those cars by stopping the through traffic will enable buses to save considerable time. Most bus routes go via the station in one way or another, so it’s the largest key pinch-point in the bus network. If we can save five minutes there it gives 10 minutes back to buses further down the line, so you’re able to expand bus routes and increase reliability and frequencies.
“And making that stretch of College Road a bus highway will radically transform it and turn it into something like a boulevard. That will actually help businesses because it’s going to make it a far more attractive area, it’s going to become a real hub around the university and the station. The university is really keen about that because it creates a proper campus feel.
“If you look at any successful station, such as London Euston or smaller ones like Derby, there are always shops and local facilities around them. Stoke Station doesn’t really have that. College Road is the nearest set of local facilities, unless you walk into Stoke. So making College Road feel like part of that station quarter is going to pay dividends.
“In other cities, properties next to the station are worth 10 times as much as those elsewhere. I think this is going to help regenerate quite a left-behind community in Shelton.”
Business owners in College Road have given the plans a mixed reception.
Bestoon Sose, who runs the University Stores off-licence, is concerned about the impact on trade.
He said: “If people can’t get here in a car it will mean fewer people will come and it will be bad for the businesses.”
Yadgar Hassan, who runs Eat N Go, said: “We need to have parking spaces for our staff. There are double yellow lines on the road, and every day we get a parking ticket.”
In addition to the £29 million Transforming Cities award, the city council has also been allocated £630,750 from the Government’s Active Travel Fund.
Council leaders plan to use some of this money to carry out initial cycle route improvements on College Road as a ‘conduit’ to the wider Transforming Cities scheme.
The Station Road works will see the creation of a pedestrianised area in front of the station, with eye-catching canopies crossing the road. Only buses will be allowed to drive past the station, with the car drop-off point moved to the rear of the facility.
Camera-controlled bus gates will be installed on College Road’s junctions with Station Road and Avenue Road to stop through traffic. But there will still be vehicular access to businesses on College Road.