Clifton Village pedestrianisation: People in support of scheme say its made area ‘a real destination’

The controversial scheme has split opinion in the community - we heard from those in support of it

The divide over a controversial pedestrianisation scheme on a Clifton Village road continues with some residents speaking out in support of the scheme - despite businesses claiming their takings have plummeted.

The trial, which has seen Princess Victoria Street shut off to traffic in a bid to reduce congestion and encourage active travel, has split opinion since its launch in August last year.

The six-month consultation into the scheme has now been extended to allow Bristol City Council to gather data and make a permanent decision on whether or not the area will remain closed to traffic for good.

This time we heard from people on the other side of the fence about why they’re in favour of the pedestrianisation and even want it to be made permanent.

James Kershaw-Naylor went as far as to say the trial had made Princess Victoria Street ‘a real destination’.

“I’ve lived here for one year and was a student here 20 years ago, I think the area has become quite iconic,” he said.

“I am somebody that drives and I parked on the street regularly, and when this was announced I was worried about how it would impact me.

Residents (L-R) Suzie Nelson-Pollard, James Kershaw-Naylor and Mirka Virtanen.

“But to be honest, I’ve barely noticed it and I much prefer it this way.”

Suzie Nelson-Pollard said: “I walk my baby in a buggy down the street and it’s much safer and cleaner.

“I hope this becomes the norm rather than the exception and that we can have more spaces that have less traffic, less pollution, less stress and more space for living.”

Paul Roberts, who live sin the Village, said: “It’s a great start. I’d like to see it expanded, though maybe not all day, every day.

“Throughout Clifton I can see great potential for expanding the pedestrianisation, perhaps during certain parts of the day and year. That needs to be looked into.”

Dr Gabriel Scally, who lives in Hotwells but is a frequent visitor to the area and is the South West’s former Director of Public Heath, said: “I think it’s a great initiative.

“Look at the space there is - it’s fantastic, and means people can social distance a lot better in the time of Covid.

“It’s a much more pleasant place to walk up and down and you could never get parked here anyway.”

Residents Dr Gabriel Scally and Paul Roberts.

The pedestrianisation has meant that tables, chairs and plant pots can be set up outside eateries along the street, but there are concerns about how well they will be used, especially on wintry weekdays.

People with disabilities have raised further reservations about how they will access the street and its shops without parking, although blue badge holders can park for up to three hours outside the Co-op.

Sasha Lubetkin said the scheme had made Princess Victoria Street a ‘much more pleasant’ place to be and that ‘despite it being a misery today’ the street is usually busy with people having a chat and a coffee.

“I live right on this very street - and have done on and off since 1968,” she said.

“I think it’s so important that we should have more active travel- walking, cycling, even the good old Voi scooters.

“Anything to get us out of cars. We have a huge problem with air pollution in this city, and this is an attempt to tackle it.

Resident Sasha Lubetkin.

“But the other side of it is that it’s so much more pleasant to be here without all the cars, constantly dodging them and trying to save your life.”

Green Party Councillors for the ward Katy Grant and Paula O’Rourke are closely involved in the scheme.

Councillor Grant said: “I think this is an amazing opportunity to show the residents of Clifton what’s possible in terms of the strategy and spirit that the city is moving towards.

“Far more active travel, people on their feet and on bicycles, and a greener, cleaner Bristol meeting the net zero targets that the city has committed to.”

Asked about reservations raised by opposing residents and businesses, she added: “We know that people are anxious about the unique and independent feel of the street and business welfare.

“Our hope is that the ‘doom and gloom’ picture that is being painted just won’t happen, that footfall will be maintained and even increase.

Green Party Bristol City Councillor for Clifton ward Katy Grant.

“Especially on weekends there are heaps of people up and down the street. I know that doesn’t necessarily translate into thriving economy in every shop or outlet here.

“But we’re really hoping the apocalyptic picture won’t occur and that Clifton Village will go from strength to strength, that soon enough we’ll find it difficult to imagine a time where we let traffic buzz up and down those streets where people can enjoy themselves so much better, feeling safer and more protected.”