The Chorlton CLT Board met to discuss our position on the question of closing Longford Road as part of the Cycle Lane plans. The CLT has a direct interest in the Co-op Funeralcare building and has floated the idea previously of closing Nicolas Road in order to extend the outdoor space and to create a larger pedestrianised area linking into the precinct. Below is an illustration which gives a sense of our vision.
We believe the closure of Nicolas Road would create a bigger dividend for more people as it would create a genuinely valuable space that connects the school and library to the precinct in a car free zone and could be used for markets, outdoor gatherings and on street eating/drinking, and open up public realm improvement opportunities which could enhance the local environment and attract more footfall to the heart of Chorlton.
Our proposal would be to experiment with an initial closure of Nicolas Road using planters from the junction of Manchester Road to the car park entrance as shown. This would quickly create a new public space at the heart of Chorlton that we would like to encourage local businesses, groups and residents to use as the weather improves and we await widespread vaccine in the first part of 2021. Three immediate opportunities could then be explored:
- The monthly Makers Market would immediately have a more socially distanced space to operate within.
- Oswald Road School’s distanced queueing arrangement at school start up time could have more space to work with.
- New meanwhile uses that test the market for food stalls and occasional performances that are proposed for the future redevelopment of the Picture House.
If successful, we would aim longer term for a permanent solution in the context of the wider redevelopment of the precinct and access requirements of the medical centre.
We appreciate that part of the rationale for selecting Longford Road may be to reduce cars doing school runs to St Johns, however we cannot see that the closure will materially reduce the number of trips; parents concerned about their children’s safety are not likely to drop their children outside the library to walk the last part. They are instead likely to drive up one of the other roads to get to the school gates. To help ease this ongoing challenge, one of the emerging use ideas for The Picture House could be a breakfast club and drop off for the two schools. This would allow children to be safely dropped off in the morning and walked into school by volunteer parents and staff; we believe this could have a much bigger material impact on car journeys in the morning.
Ultimately there may be a case to close both Nicolas and Longford Road, however the plan right now is to experiment with one closure and to learn lessons on its impact. Our strong preference is to experiment with Nicolas Road in the first instance and to then consider Longford Road once lessons have been learnt.