PLANS to reduce vehicle access and create a cafe culture in Lancaster city centre have been backed by city councillors.
Currently, anyone wanting to run a street cafe needs separate planning and licensing permissions, but Lancaster City Council’s planning committee has agreed that businesses should only need a new street cafe licence.
The council’s cabinet has also agreed to a trial of up to 18 months to restrict access to the pedestrian zone for delivery vehicles from 10am-5pm rather than from 10.30am-4.30pm at present.
Under the original proposals the new restriction would have run from 9.30am-5pm, but businesses raised concerns that this would not leave enough time for morning deliveries.
An exemption allowing vehicles to access the zone for postal deliveries during these hours will also be removed, while the council will ensure bin collections take place outside that timeframe.
Plans are afoot to create a dedicated parking area for postal vehicles in the St Nicholas Arcade servicing area off Gage Street.
Market traders will have to remove vehicles used to set up their stalls by 9am rather than 9.30am, while from April-October traders will have to wait until 4pm to use vehicles to dismantle stalls, rather than 3.30pm at present.
Nine disabled bays off Market Street currently available to 725 blue badge holders with a permit A will be removed and that permit will be scrapped.
Disabled people had raised fears that the proposal would make it difficult for them to access the city centre.
But the council will provide at least nine new on and off street disabled spaces around the pedestrian zone, including in the St Nicholas Arcades car park.
The council report says: “Traffic in the pedestrianised zone is now at levels that significantly impair the experience of pedestrians, are to the detriment of public amenity and have safety implications.
“In turn this is unhelpful to trading.”
Highways authority Lancashire County Council will be asked to consider the proposals and the changes could come into force by September.
Both the proposed cafe seating and vehicle restrictions are part of the council’s Square Routes project, which aims to improve public spaces and help boost trade.
A proposed new layout for Market Square includes cafe seating outside the city museum, which could house a basement cafe, and also outside TK Maxx and 1725, with market stalls and other ‘concessionary’ stalls, which can trade for up to six days a week, in the centre.
The city council and police have agreed to allow a year-long trial of one street cafe with an alcohol licence subject to approval from the council licensing committee.
Ann Morris, chief executive of the Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce, said she supported the principle of reducing vehicle access and was pleased councillors had now allowed 30 minutes more for morning deliveries.
But she said the reduced delivery window would increase city centre congestion, coinciding with disruption early next year when roads are closed to allow United Utilities to install storm water tanks.
Council leader, Coun Eileen Blamire, said: “People expressed some concerns about the changes to traffic, but it’s a trial and if there are any problems we can look at it again.
“Other areas have street cafes and it’s something we should try because it could boost the economy and make the city centre more lively and interesting.”