Whitby Swing Bridge could become traffic-free on weekends and bank holidays
A trial to make Whitby Swing Bridge traffic-free on weekends and bank holidays is being proposed to improve safety for residents and visitors ahead of what promises to be a busy summer season.
On Friday (March 12) the County Council’s Executive Members for Business and Environmental Services will consider proposals to prohibit vehicles between 10.30am and 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays throughout the year.
County Cllr Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said: “With daytime visitor numbers increasing each year and the predicted staycation boom this summer we want to get on the front foot.
"In the last few years we have had to close the Swing Bridge to traffic at incredibly busy times so we see this as a long-term solution.”
The traffic restrictions would be introduced from next month under an Experimental Traffic Order which allows the public to comment during the first six months and allows some flexibility in the restrictions as the trial is taking place.
Although the original proposal was to implement the Swing Bridge restrictions for seven days a week, feedback from the first stage of consultation showed the reduced hours to be the preferred option.
“We would like to thank everybody who shared their views in our initial consultation,” said Cllr Mackenzie.
“We understand the importance of allowing traffic over the Swing Bridge but this has to be balanced with the needs of pedestrians at peak times.
"Please be assured that this is a trial which would be reviewed before any decision was made to make it permanent.”
In 2019 and previous years, congestion during summer weekends and special events resulted in its temporary closure, highlighting the issue of narrow footways.
In 2020, under measures introduced partly to tackle the spread of coronavirus, a multi-agency task group made the decision to close the bridge to traffic from 10.30am to 6pm every weekend until October.
Pier Road was also closed to all but essential access every day.
Cllr Joe Plant, who represents Whitby Streonshalh, added: “In recent years the huge number of visitors to the town on summer weekends and events forced us to act, and the issue has been magnified due to social distancing concerns.
“I support the trial as I would like to test the effect of any restrictions in the winter months before making this permanent.
"I’m pleased that the bridge will remain open on weekdays as it is a vital link for buses and taxis.
"I hope we can all work together to find a permanent solution.”
The existing daily March to September restrictions on St Ann's Staith, Pier Road, Haggersgate and Khyber Pass would be extended to year-round and all vehicles would be prohibited on Grape Lane 10.30am to 4pm, year-round.
The experiment could run for a maximum of 18 months and it is intended that it continues into the winter, with the earliest date for review likely to be around December 2021.
As the experimental period progresses, highways teams will continually monitor the situation and if necessary, make alterations to respond to changes in demand.
A public consultation was carried out at the end of last year with residents, town centre retailers and businesses from both sides of the bridge.
Letters were delivered to more than 800 properties in the vicinity of the Swing Bridge.
The Whitby Town Deal Board has secured £400,000 of fast-track Government funding to pay for the infrastructure needed to carry out the trial which would be implemented by North Yorkshire County Council’s highways team.
A key element of the scheme would be to provide signs advising of the trial and redirecting traffic approaching the town centre, replacing the temporary signage that is currently used for closures.
The Board was set up to oversee a bid for £25m from the Government for projects to boost skills and enterprise, sustainability, digital and transport connectivity, community well-being and to revitalise the economic prospects of Whitby.
It is made up of a wide range of groups including businesses, local councils and representative bodies.
Click here for more information.