The southern section of Shore Road along Swanage’s seafront in Dorset is to be closed to traffic on a permanent basis to create a safer area for pedestrians.
The stretch from The Mowlem to the junction with Victoria Avenue has been closed during the summer for many years and since October 2022 it has remained shut all year round on a trial basis. Now Dorset Council says it won’t reopen and will stay traffic-free.
Beach hut users won’t have to contend with traffic at anytime of the year
More space for pedestrians
The decision follows a public consultation during the period when the road was closed all year round on an experimental basis.
Shutting the road has given people strolling along that stretch more space and has made it easier for those using the beach huts, especially children, to cross over to the beach.
However some drivers have complained that they are now forced to go via the busy Station Road and several sets of traffic lights to get to South Swanage.
The results of a Swanage Town Council survey conducted between January and March 2020, found that 60 percent wanted Shore Road between The Mowlem and Victoria Avenue to be closed permanently all year round, with 33 percent preferring to keep it closed only during the summer, while seven percent wanted to extend the closure period.
The top reason in favour of closing the road all year round was related to safety. Many of the respondents mentioned the confusion over the opening and closing of the road, near miss accidents and parked cars reducing the visibility of pedestrians crossing the road.
Banning the traffic offers new possibilities for the area
“Safety concerns outweighed any negative feedback”
Announcing the permanent closure Dorset Council said:
“Having considered the comments made during the consultation, the safety concerns outweighed any negative feedback.
“Traffic through the autumn / winter period was considered reduced compared to spring / summer when the original seasonal restriction was in place.
“Full support was received by all key stakeholders before and throughout the experimental traffic regulation order consultation period.”
The barrier gates will now remain closed throughout the year but will be able to be open for events like the Swanage Carnival parade subject to a temporary road order.
The closure now opens up a range of possibilities for the area including creating more seating, better landscaping and a larger space for events, exhibitions and games. This will be considered by Swanage Town Council as part of its ongoing Seafront Masterplan.
The Environment Agency is currently working on a business plan to install permanent sea defences by The Mowlem (and further along by the lower High Street). The Shore Road closure now allows for more options. Early ideas have included a low wall with seating.
Improvements to the northern end of Shore Road are now being considered as parked cars, lampposts and ticket machines make the pavement difficult to navigate, particularly for wheelchair users
Further closure options for Shore Road
Separately Swanage Town Council is now working with Dorset Council to look at the options to restrict traffic at the northern end of Shore Road.
Swanage Town Council’s recent consultations on the Swanage Seafront Masterplan and the Swanage Green Seafront Stabilisation and Enhancement Scheme, showed that a large proportion of those surveyed wanted to see improved traffic management along the whole of the length of Shore Road.
There were more than 100 mentions of Shore Road in all the comments with many mentioning that they would like to see the northern stretch of the road pedestrianised.
When asked, “What don’t you like about Swanage seafront?” the most popular response was ‘cars and traffic’ (23 percent), 13 percent of respondents cited the narrowness of the pavement on Shore Road and a quarter felt that the seafront was not safe for pedestrians.
Due to storm damage to the road surface, the northern section of Shore Road is currently closed with repairs not expected to be completed until at least Easter 2024
In light of this, Swanage Town Council agreed at a meeting on Monday 29th January 2024 to jointly commission with Dorset Council, a feasibility study to investigate four options to amend the layout of Shore Road and the surrounding roads in conjunction with the two seafront stabilisations proposals.
- Close the road with gates or features such as bus enforcement cameras to restrict vehicle access. Similar to the existing closure along the southern section of Shore Road
- Restrict to one way traffic, remove parking bays and widen pavements
- As option 2 with additional changes to the wider traffic network around the town
- As option 1 but a full road closure with the removal of highways features and instead creating a place designed for the community (placemaking)
Once the feasibility study has been completed, further traffic surveys and highway modelling may take place over the summer, before being presented to councillors and the community for consideration.
In October 2023, the northern end of Shore Road was closed for a sea rowing competition giving a taste of what it could be like without traffic