George Street, in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, was once referred to as the (mini) ‘Bond Street’ of St Albans. Time has changed things somewhat but the street still holds special appeal and potential. Yet even before Covid-19, when the street was open to traffic, footfall was often poor. In recent years a few shops have been converted into residential, whilst some are now empty. Concern has been expressed over the future for shops in this part of the Cathedral Quarter. But concern is not enough. The ‘patient’ needs some TLC!
The Covid-19 situation has brought emergency powers that closed George Street to traffic in order to enable effective social distancing. It has been pedestrianised. Whilst it is early days in strange circumstances footfall appears to have improved. Free from having to dodge and put up with passing traffic, people are appreciating the street more. They notice the character buildings and can enjoy the various shops and hospitality venues. Could things be made even better thus establishing it as a ‘must visit’ destination to browse, shop and spend leisure time?
St Albans Civic Society is proposing some ideas on how this might be achieved. There are various options in respect of traffic flows, particularly for large vehicles using this part of the historic Conservation Area. Such options could affect nearby narrow streets, Romeland and the role and status of High Street.
The plan shows set down and pick up areas for cars at both ends and for mini buses only at the south end and for coaches in the north end area only. Delivery vehicles would arrive before 10.00 and after 20.00 hours. There would be room for al fresco eating, displays and stalls etc. The street surface (material to be decided) would be level. Thus avoiding any trip hazard on kerbs and, whenever appropriate, enabling any social distancing as well as room to stroll about. College and Spicer Streets could have a large vehicle restriction except for emergency ie fire engine access. Romeland could be returned to exclusive resident and visitor/shopper parking only as it once was. Vehicles/coaches unable/not willing to turn at the top of the street from Verulam Road to be able to use a West to East route via High Street and the Peahen Junction at least during the peak hours until 10.00 and after 16.00 Mondays to Fridays.
Nothing has been decided. It will be for the County and Local Councils and elected representatives to determine what might take place. The Civic Society, however, would like to have the views and suggestions from organisations, traders, Residents’ Associations and individuals – preferably by 31st December 2020. Responses to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please remember, the focus is on George Street and making it even better thus securing its future as part of the Cathedral Quarter experience.
Thanks to Angela Mellen for the plan and illustration.