The £1m plan to pedestrianise around the clock tower was revealed this week and will be part of a public consultation later this month.
The scheme extends Market Place’s pedestrianised area around the clock tower, covering parts of North Street and Church Street. The existing main road by the clock tower would be limited to buses, cyclists and taxis. The project attempts to link up the High Street with Rugby’s successful Independent Quarter around Regent Street and Albert Street. If approved, the plans could take shape next year as funding has already been found.
While some are in favour of the idea, others, including Rugby Liberal Democrats, aren’t convinced. Cllr Noreen New said: “We have serious reservations on the scheme and believe that spending £1m to remove one of the main routes through the town, just to provide a larger civic space around the clock tower, is a waste of tax payers’ money. It will result in severe traffic congestion and pollution on Park Road, Regent Street, Albert Street and Lawrence Sheriff Street.”
However, Mike O’Connor, of J Parriss jewellers on Regent Street, said earlier this year that when he was chair of Rugby Retailers Association two years ago, almost all shops favoured the plans.
He said: “I think this will be a great boost for the town. What it will do is link the Independent Quarter to the rest of Rugby, which will benefit everyone. I have heard of people who wanted to open a shop in Rugby but who haven’t because of the way that North Street and Church Street divide the town.”
Cllr Peter Butlin, portfolio holder for transport and planning at Warwickshire County Council said: “This scheme will look to improve the connection between the main business and retail areas of the town centre, which are currently separated. Much has been achieved for the town centre through the previous pedestrianisation scheme and the benefits brought about by the relief road. This is the next stage of the work, and will further improve Rugby as a town to live in and to visit.
“The scheme will accommodate future expansion of the town centre. Rugby is one of the largest growing towns in the region, and any scheme to enhance the town centre needs to bear in mind the potential for substantial new housing, employment and retail provision that will come into Rugby in the coming years.”
The web site for the proposals is warwickshire.gov.uk/rtcenhancement and this contains all the plans, supporting information and online survey. The consultation period formally runs from September 26 through to October 25. The exhibitions on Thursday September 26, starting at 10am and finishing at 5pm will be at Clock Towers Shopping Centre, Rugby Library and the Town Hall. The exhibitions on Saturday, September 28, starting at 10:30am and finishing at 3.30pm will be at Clock Towers Shopping Centre, Rugby Library and St Andrews Church.