Although Simon Crowcroft cannot decide the street’s future – as the road is administered by the government – he has offered to help and has branded the handling of the current Covid-triggered closure as ‘a lost opportunity’ to bring more people to town.
‘It’s not difficult to imagine Broad Street being paved to provide a second artery through town,’ he said.
He added that it was imperative that ‘St Helier reimagined itself as a place you don’t only go to shop but you go for the kind of things you can’t do on the internet’.
‘I have been having people say to me we could animate the space with some sort of street market, street food, street theatre or other forms of entertainment. I’ve recently been approached by buskers who would like to play some music. There is the feeling that if it is to be closed, why not make the space attractive and interesting for people to use as an alternative to the main precinct?’ the Constable said.
The road was closed to traffic last year as part of measures to create more space for shoppers during the pandemic. The move was controversial, with some traders saying that it had resulted in a loss of business.
But the Constable, who said that he had been approached by others who wanted to see the arrangement made permanent, described Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis’ approach to encouraging pedestrians as ‘less than optimal’.
‘The only thing the department has done is to put up two ugly red fluorescent barriers at the start of the street. That’s it, with the exception of a few sandbags. There’s no explanation of what has happened and I think that is poor.
‘Aesthetically it’s poor and there’s no explanation for the public. For example, should people walk in the road after 11 o’clock [when service vehicles can no longer use the road], or are cyclists permitted? It is not what we should be doing in our town centre in terms of providing information to the public, whether they are on foot, in motor cars or on bicycles,’ the Constable said.
He added that the minister’s refusal to trial an alternative route for the number 19 bus, which used to drop shoppers in Broad Street, now gave them a walk from the bus station which was especially difficult for those with limited mobility.
‘I put it to the minister that it would be relatively easy to bring the bus up Conway Street and to set people down by the obelisk, right in the heart of town. That could have been done a year ago when the road was closed. The minister has made lots of excuses about how much it would cost and how difficult it would be and they haven’t even given it a trial. I think that’s really disappointing,’ he said.
The Constable’s comments reflect the parish’s view that it should have greater influence on decisions taken by the government which relate directly to the life of St Helier. Broad Street was, he said, one of a number of issues which currently lay with the Council of Ministers.
Mr Crowcroft added that giving pedestrians priority in Broad Street was consistent with a range of government priorities relating to health, environmental targets and climate change.
‘Government policy is clear that more space should be given to people who are walking around town than people who are merely driving through it. There is no data on this but I think it’s pretty clear that most of the traffic that used to use Broad Street was through-traffic. These were not people who were shopping or bringing trade. The majority were doing so because the ring road is congested and it’s seen as a quicker way to cut through town. That doesn’t fit in with any of the States strategic policies,’ he said.