Another section of Swanage’s seafront is to be closed to traffic for five days during Lifeboat Week to see how pedestrianisation plans might work in practice.
Lower High Street will be closed to traffic in both directions between Thursday 17th August and Monday 21st August 2023 and residents, businesses and visitors have been urged to have their say about the experiment in a survey.
Road traffic will be taken off Lower High Street for five days
No hidden agenda behind the closure
Part of Shore Road, between The Mowlem and Banjo Pier, is currently closed to traffic in a pedestrianisation experiment and under the Swanage Seafront Masterplan – currently being finalised – may become a permanently traffic free promenade.
Dorset Coast Forum, which is leading the public survey along Lower High Street, says there is no hidden agenda behind the closure, which also links into future flood management plans for the area.
In the past, suggested plans to pedestrianise the lower High Street from the junction of Seymer Road to the junction with Marshall Row, allowing a flood defence wall to be built further back from the beach, gained general support.
Lower High Street had to be closed after Storm Alex in early October 2020 as debris including seaweed, sand and pebbles was strewn by the waves across the road, making it dangerous to traffic.
In the Swanage seafront masterplan, the vision for the area from the pier entrance to Stone Quay now includes creating a pedestrian friendly open space as part of flood defence improvements.
Part of a vision for the future is a pedestrian friendly open space along the seafront
Traffic will be diverted along Seymer Road and Marshall Row while Lower High Street is closed
Have Your Say survey both online and off
While the 80 metre stretch of road is closed to traffic, cars will be diverted using Seymer Road and Marshall Row, although Swanage Sea Rowing Club has been assured that it will still have access to the beach for its boats.
During the five days of closure Dorset Coast Forum, on behalf of Dorset Council and the Environment Agency, wants to take as many views as possible about the impact of restricted vehicle access in the area.
The seafront between Swanage Pier and Gee Whites is expected to be especially busy on Saturday 19th August 2023 for Lifeboat Week’s annual Build A Boat competition.
A Have Your Say survey which should take five to ten minutes to complete is available on the Dorset Coast Forum’s website through the Swanage Masterplan page, while there will also be clipboard surveys on site on Thursday and Sunday.
Storm Alex left debris along Lower High Street in winter 2020, showing the need for better storm defences
“We are just testing the water”
Dorset Coast Forum project manager Sara Parker said:
“In the past there have been so many surveys done, questions asked, and different projects looking at that particular area, but time has moved on and Dorset Council’s flooding resource management team wanted to see how people would use the space if it was temporarily closed.
“Over the winter months in early 2023 when there was surveying about the flood defences, the modelling was worse than we expected in terms of sea level rise, so we have taken a step back towards the drawing board.
“There is a definite appetite to find out whether there is strong public opinion on making that stretch a pedestrian area and, if we could, what people would potentially want from that.
“We are just testing the water – if that road is closed, who will it affect? If we haven’t thought of them already, hopefully they will come forward and let us know.”
With permanent, well designed storm breaks in place, the area could become a pedestrianised promenade
As much information as possible is needed
“In the seafront masterplan there were plenty of positive attitudes towards pedestrianisation; I know most people looked at the Shore Road area, but in the past there has been positivity about making Lower High Street a pedestrian area too.
“I want to make sure I have as much information as I can. I’m letting the public lead this, there are no plans hidden in the background.
“I want as many people as possible to take part, so Diamond McGill from the Environment Agency will be out and about on Thursday 17th August and I will be there on Sunday 20th August doing an old fashioned paper survey with clipboards.
“We will be stopping people in the street and asking them questions because not everyone is on the internet and I’m hopeful we will pick up a few extra pieces of information.”
Swanage’s grey concrete flood barriers will get a colourful makeover
New street art project planned
Results of the survey should be made public in the autumn when the final version of the Swanage Seafront Masterplan is announced.
One change along Lower High Street that is already expected to take place this winter is a brighter look to the flood defence concrete barriers with a street art project planned to make the installation more colourful.
A disability study commissioned by Swanage Town Council in November 2023 discovered amongst things that people with sight impairments struggled to see the wave barriers well as they were too grey.
Now the Environment Agency has lent its support to a street art project and Dorset Coast Forum is looking for artists, schools, creatives and community groups to help turn the Swanage wave barriers into works of art.
Dorset Coast Forum is considering street art projects like these at Weymouth
Making ‘ugly concrete barriers’ colourful
Sara Parker said:
“We need to make the winter flood barriers stand out to be more user friendly! We are aiming to attach painted panels on some blocks, designed and created by the local community reflecting issues of sea level rise and flooding.
“They may have a vital role, but they are awful, ugly concrete barriers and a street art project to go on some of them will at least make them a bit more colourful this year.”
A zoom meeting for anyone interested in getting involved is being held on Wednesday 16th August 2023 from 7-9pm with registration here, or by contacting Sara at the Dorset Coast Forum.