We are told that the ‘people of Prestwich’ are on the march. They are busy fighting; fighting to stop road closures; fighting against the interfering planning authorities. Flyers incessantly tell us that the neighbourhood has to wake up from its slumbers.
But is the proposal for the regeneration of Prestwich about ‘the people of Prestwich versus the authorities?’
No, this is not about fighting. This is about consultation: a consultation involving a diverse range of stakeholders. This includes stakeholders who rarely have a voice: those that until now have been unable to interfere with the insidious march of ad hoc ‘progress’.
‘Yes…but’ or ‘Yes…and’
Surely it’s time to put away our ‘yes…but’ hat and replace it with a ‘yes …and’ hat. Listening to the informed debate at the recent Township meeting, it seems as though the people of Prestwich really are doing just that.
It is a one-shot opportunity to put Prestwich on the map: to create a pulsating and economically healthy community. We no longer have to focus solely on the quickest way into and out of Prestwich. Prestwich itself may become somewhere worth spending time in. With a £2 million investment from Bury Council and TfGM the question is not whether we use such funding, but how wisely we can use it.
First of all, let’s look at the logic of the scheme. Bury New Road (A56) is theoretically a two-lane road in both directions (in practice, it is anything but). It is a major arterial road into and out of Manchester. However, the two-lane system is in many ways slower than a single lane road. The inner lane is largely ineffective because of widespread parking and buses having to stop on the inner lane. The result is continual weaving of traffic into the outer lane and in again. As a result, the flow of both lanes is compromised. By introducing a single lane system, traffic flow could be improved (or at least, not made any worse) whilst providing a major new opportunity for the creation of a true High Street for Prestwich.
In order for single lane traffic to flow effectively, traffic turning into or out of Bury New Road needs to occur in a controlled manner (i.e. at traffic lights via Chester Street). Hence the proposal to close off the Warwick Street junction and to make the junction at Clifton Road one-way. Right turns, either onto the A56 or onto the sidestreets, necessarily involve turning across oncoming traffic. In the absence of traffic lights, this manoeuvre will invariably cause traffic jams behind the turning vehicle.
Road closures or street openings?
So what are the doomsayers forewarning? It seems that rat runs, delays, bottlenecks, and disruption will inevitably accompany the proposed changes.
We are told that we want to keep things just as they are. But are we really happy with things as they are? Do we really want a ‘no change’ scenario?
Walk along the narrow stretch of Clifton Road pavement approaching the A 56 and you will discover that rat runs and bottlenecks are already with us. (Definition of rat run: a minor, typically residential street used by drivers during peak periods to avoid congestion on main roads). As you approach the A 56, the pavement width becomes alarmingly narrow: barely enough to accommodate a single pedestrian (no hand-holding of children at this point). The bottleneck at this point is even more hazardous for those pedestrians turning into Clifton Road. The turning is obscured by shop fronts and cars exiting from Clifton Road frequently climb over the paving in order to make a left turn.
Add to this, the problems of pavement parking and the presence of industrial waste bins and pedestrians have no choice but to bypass obstructions by walking on the road. Try doing this with two young children; try doing this if you’re visually impaired; try doing this if you’re in a power chair. As pedestrians we become unwilling participants in a very dangerous game.
So this is why many people feel that it’s time for a change. As it is, Clifton Road is too narrow to support two-way traffic. This is not heavy traffic. But it’s congested traffic, because cars struggle to enter and leave a busy A 56 through-road.
The creation of a one-way street would provide a unique opportunity to widen the pavements along this stretch of Clifton Road. (Yes, one that would allow emergency vehicle movement where necessary). Instead of pavement parking, we would have permanent bay parking to allow people to pop into the local chippy or hairdressers.
When Tinkering Becomes Sabotage
Ask a surgeon to do a heart transplant. Would he be able to ignore a blood clot in the leg? Surely not, as this would jeopardise the whole circulatory system. In just the same way, by failing to intervene at the edges might we also undermine the viability of single lane traffic on the A 56: a concept that would allow the creation of a true High Street.
Single Splash Making Many Ripples
If the people of Prestwich really are receptive to change, many things will follow. From a single splash (Prestwich High Street Regeneration Scheme) there will be many larger ripples. With the right infrastructure, investment and ideas will inevitably flourish.
Have Your Say – Not Somebody Else’s!
Its up to us to have a say in the consultation process. But don’t be misled into believing the people of Prestwich are driven by the fear of change. Many are expressing hopes and aspirations. This is not about road closures… it’s about street openings…and in particular, the creation of a vibrant town centre High Street that we can all engage with.
To find out about the regeneration plan and provide your feedback go to:
The title quote is an abbreviation of ‘Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. Pope John XXIII
About the Author
Eddy Finch is a retired resident of Prestwich with a young family.