The results of a town-wide questionnaire on how to spend £250,000 in Helston have been released, with the row over pedestrianisation taking centre stage at a recent meeting, despite not being a definite proposal.
Martin Searle, the Helston Town Council regeneration officer presented the results of the questionnaire, which saw around a six per cent return from residents, with 323 sent back of the 5,500 that were delivered to homes in the town.
Business owners were also sent questionnaires, with 33 returned out of 228.
The questions focused on a number of areas, from town lighting and seating to safety and the controversial possibility of pedestrianising Meneage Street.
Mr Searle said it threw up the view that Helston town centre was not “welcoming” to visitors and the people of the town. With most people visiting for “convenience shopping” for less than one hour three times a week. The lack of major brands and a lack of “variety” were top on the list of reasons why people do not visit more.
The high cost of parking was also highlighted, with 142 people saying it put them off visiting. One member of the public said that it felt like “overzealous” parking attendants were “stalking” the town, driving people away. Most people responding said that they preferred free on street parking.
Many members of the public said that free parking was key to regenerating the town, with trade being lost to the out of town supermarkets as they could offer this.
However Mr Searle said that while they could use the section 106 money to provide free parking, Cornwall Council would demand that they are reimbursed, and that this would use up all the cash, and not solve any long term problems.
The topic of Meneage Street pedestrianisation proved the most controversial issue with Mr Searle saying he was “daring to use the P word”.
Broadly speaking the questionnaire showed that members of the public were split on pedestrianisation, with it being the third highest response in the section that asked what would make people visit the town more (after better shops and parking). However many traders were firmly opposed. Brian Shore from the Horse and Jockey said that 2,000 people had signed a petition against the pedestrianisation of Meneage Street, and warned that businesses would close.
Martin Searle responded that the council needed to take account of this petition and that there was no proposal to pedestrianise parts of the town, adding that the survey was just to “find out what people want”.
Wesley Bowden, of Bowden Hardware, suggested a three month trial of pedestrianisation, saying: “One of two things will happen. Either it will be a success or it will be a failure.”
The survey results showed many people wanted a more pedestrian friendly environment, with Mr Searle saying he felt it would be possible to enhance the street while retaining the convenience.
Among the suggestions were wider pavements, which could see the loss of a couple of parking spaces, and creating the infrastructure for market stalls, however adding that this was a “continuing debate”.
Coinagehall Street was called the best of the town’s streets, with it described as the “nearest thing to a town square”. However people responding to the questionnaire said that the quality of the street had been diminished in recent years, with granite replaced by concrete and the addition of large bus bays.
Herringbone style parking on the street was one of the ideas suggested.
Respondents showed strong support for more “civic space”, with one person even suggesting the demolition of the Guildhall to create a town square – an idea that is unlikely to see the light of day. However Mr Searle added that while the area around the Guildhall was small more could be done with it, and the Guildhall itself.
Welcome and signage results: Over 50 per cent wanted improved landscaping and signage at gateways to the town, with 55 wanting a dedicated visitor information centre, with the Guildhall or Meneage Street the preferred locations. Fifty-five per cent wanted better information posted in the town’s car parks.
Your town centre section: The top three reasons for not visiting the town centre were a lack of major brand shops, parking and the general appearance of the town. Shoppers spent on average less than one hour in Helston town centre, visiting two or three times a week, mainly in the morning. Convenience shopping was the largest driver of trade, with financial services and health services also featuring highly.
The three top changes that could be made to attract people into the town were better shops, changes to parking and the pedestrianisaton of parts of the town.
Transport section results.
Most people prefer to park for free on the street, with Trengrouse Way the most popular car park. The majority of respondents said that parking costs were too high. However despite this, only three per cent use public transport, with 51 per cent of respondents walking. The majority of people who responded said that walking routes needed improving. The surface of the walkways and lighting were considered the most important. Cycling is not popular in the town, with 83 per cent of people saying that there should be no cycle lanes or routes. The priorities for reducing through traffic were to cut traffic, in order of priority, on Meneage Street, Coinagehall Street, Church Street and Wendron Street. Seventy-four per cent of people wanted a cut in the speed limit to 20mph. The majority did not want to widen the pavements on Meneage Street but only by a small margin.
Keeping “unrestricted access” for vehicles on Meneage Street saw 55 per cent for and 45 per cent against. The creation of loading bays on the road was not as popular with 63 per cent against. The creation of a pedestrian friendly Meneage Street “at specific times” was more popular than not, with on specific days the most popular choice.
The top three transport ideas for improving the town centre, in order of popularity were, cheaper or free parking, to pedestrianise Meneage Street and to abolish parking charges altogether.
Streetscape section results.
The top suggestion for creating civic space for events and markets was at the Guildhall or Museum or at the Bowling Green, with 65 per cent of people wanting a dedicated space. The priority areas for improved floral displays was Meneage Street and Coinagehall Street, followed by Wendron Street. The most popular place for play facilities was at the Sunken Garden, however the majority of people do not want play areas in the town centre. The top suggestions to improve the “street scene in the town” were to clean and tidy the town, buildings and shops and to increase the amount of floral displays.
Heritage and Culture section.
The heritage and culture of the town should be used a unique selling point for the town, with an idea to place information celebrating the history of Helston in a public place popular. The vast majority of people who responded want better links with Coronation Park and the Boating Lake.
The top ideas for making the most of Helston’s heritage and culture were to invest and promote the boating lake and promote the museum. Just six people thought using Flora Day as a unique selling point was a good idea.
Community Safety section.
While 97 per cent of people feel safe in Helston during daylight hours, this falls to 64 per cent in the evenings and at night, with a lack of lighting and drunken behaviour highlighted as reasons.