I’ve tried to see the point of the Boot’s Corner closure scheme. Really I have. I’ve held the plans up to the light to see if that makes a difference. I’ve tried squinting at them. But however hard I try, the justifications for this drastic move never get more convincing.
Take the argument about air quality. We all want better air, and I recently took Megabus to task for not switching off their engines when waiting. But whilst it’s true that there are five areas in Cheltenham which breach the EU’s nitrogen dioxide standards, Boot’s Corner isn’t one of them. The air there is perfectly legal. So how can air quality be the justification when polluted hot-spots like the lower High Street are being ignored? And what’s more, everything from vans to Bence trucks will shortly be rat-running through back streets, belching out fumes in residential areas.
What about the pro-cycling argument? I cycle everywhere in Cheltenham and this argument doesn’t stack up. A key factor that puts people off cycling is sharing the road with other vehicles. And yet buses and taxis will still be able to use Boot’s Corner. So the disincentive to getting on a bike remains.
As for the pro-shopper argument, precious little evidence has been produced that closing the road to cars will create some huge boost. You can see why. Given that buses and taxis will still use it, pedestrians will still need to negotiate a crossing. And surely, if we want to help shoppers, the priority should be to cancel the recent 45% parking hikes which make Cheltenham the most expensive place to park in Gloucestershire?
Meanwhile, the cost of this trial is very significant, diverting money away from pressing priorities.
I’ll keep trying to identify the point of it all. But at the moment it feels like the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.