Campaigners say University of Northampton study finds ‘no benefit’ of allowing cars in Abington Street

GV of Abington Street, Northampton. ENGNNL00120120708160800
GV of Abington Street, Northampton. ENGNNL00120120708160800

A report on whether to open Northampton’s Abington Street to traffic has come down heavily in favour of leaving the shopping street car-free, it has been claimed.

The study conducted by the Enterprise Research Group of the University of Northampton concludes that keeping streets open to pedestrians would be beneficial for trade, public health and safety.

The conclusion of the report states: “Data regarding negative consequences associated with pedestrianisation of urban areas, especially those associated with commerce, is conspicuous in its absence.

“Indeed, there is an almost complete lack of evidence of any negative effects resulting from well-planned pedestrianisation.”

Researchers, commissioned by the St Edmund’s Residents’ Association, compiled the 18 page document from a series of case studies on the benefits of pedestrianised town centres, peer reviewed journal entries and articles produced by pressure groups such as Living Streets.

The report says that traffic free centres enjoy increased footfall to shops, boosted public spending and decreased levels of vacancy in urban retail areas, which it says also helps to increase employment levels.

It adds that such car free areas show “measurable decreases in crime rates” and significant reductions in levels of CO2 noise pollution.

These it says lead to increased public health, “both physical and psychological.”

Northampton Borough Council is set to spend £3 million on the de-pedestrianisation of part of Abington Street and has argued that allowing cars along the road for the first time in 25 years would provide a boost to that area of town.

Councillor David Mackintosh, leader of Northampton Borough Council said: “The report is based on general research into pedestrianisation and has plenty to say about San Francisco, Vienna and Bogotá but makes no mention of Abington Street or our proposals to reopen the middle section to traffic.

“Much of the research is over ten years old and dates back to before internet shopping really started to hit our high streets.

“I am interested in the specific circumstances affecting trade in Abington Street at this moment in time, and what we can do to help local traders.

“I would urge people to read the report and judge it for themselves.”

Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said: “As the councillor for the area, I am really pleased that the St Edmunds Residents Association have taken up this issue and commissioned the research. It really important to have a evidence base when making decisions and this provides just that.

“We’ve not been supplied with any justification to support the de-pedestrianization of Abington Street. We therefore hope that Councillor Mackintosh will re-think his position on the proposal.”

A petition to keep the street open to pedestrians currently has 820 signatures.