Malcolm Buchanan

The St Ives Trust commenced their second series of talks on ‘A Plan for St Ives’ with a talk on 22 January. Despite foul weather an audience of over 40 people turned out to hear Malcolm Buchanan’s talk  ‘Traffic in Historic Towns’. Malcolm, recently retired as head of the internationally known firm of Colin Buchanan and Partners gave an intriguing talk on the difficulties of dealing with the impact of modern day traffic upon historic towns.

Malcolm showed how the car has dominated the pattern of urban growth and development sometimes resulting in neighbouring towns merging into one.  He also drove home the point that the car is by far the major contributor to the increase in CO2 emissions and resulting climate change.

Directing the talk to historic towns, he talked about approaches ranging from car park pricing and tolls, to Park and Ride and alternative modes of quality public transport.  One solution cited was Durham, where payment is required to activate a retractable bollard to exit the town centre. This simple solution has had the very positive effect of decreasing traffic in the town centre by half. It has also made the town centre a more welcoming place and despite initial opposition from retailers, shopping turnover increased dramatically.  Similar increases in retail activity have been experienced whenever full or even partial pedestrianisation has been implemented. He also stressed the necessity for control over when delivery vehicles have access to town centres.

Throughout his talk, he emphasised that quality of concept and design was key to a successful outcome. In particular, he showed examples of traffic free areas in Italian towns where pedestrians and cyclists enjoy a calm and relaxed atmosphere in the town centre.  In some of these cases cars were restricted to underground car parks located outside of the city walls.

Without doubt, Park and Ride has become one of the most used and successful controls to decrease   cars in town centres.  Limiting the number of car park spaces within the town centre and increasing the cost of parking can encourage car users to use public transport. Malcolm talked about the history of the bus and the tram and went on to explore the use of Personalised Rapid Transit. PRT systems require minimal infrastructure; run on flexible and personally controlled stopping points and are high quality, almost car-like capsules.  It has been shown that PRT systems are very cost efficient and in the case of St Ives, could be used to offer a frequent method of transport from a Park and Ride into the town. This type of system could be used in conjunction with a fleet of small electronically powered taxis to more specific points within the town.

Malcolm admitted to being surprised by the car park sited at the Leisure Centre. He felt it was an key site in the town and one infinitely more deserving of sensitive and appropriate development with the cars, if necessary, being concealed from view.

Ending with an enthusiastic question and answer session, Malcolm acknowledged that St Ives had presented more complex problems than he first envisaged.  The session highlighted the need for deliveries within the town to be addressed and brought forward the idea for a goods trans-shipment arrangement at St Erth resulting in much smaller delivery vehicles entering St Ives.

The debate surrounding the traffic and parking problems in St Ives will continue, however words are not enough – action needs to be taken as these issues already greatly affect both residents and visitors.

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