WORK is set to start in early March on a £2.3 million highways improvement scheme in Solihull town centre.
The Solihull Gateway Project will see enhancements in Station Road and Poplar Road – considered one of the key ‘gateways’ into the town.
The scheme aims to make Solihull town centre more accessible and improve the look of the area.
It is being carried out by Solihull Council in partnership with Centro, the West Midlands’ public transport co-ordinator, and Balfour Beatty Living Places and is expected to be completed by October 2015.
Councillor Ted Richards, Cabinet Member for Transport and Highways, said: “It is great to see the Solihull Gateway project getting underway.
“This scheme will be a real boost for the town centre, creating a more attractive and comfortable environment for pedestrians, reducing the dominance of traffic and improving facilities for buses and passengers.
“We’re going to be as accommodating as possible while the works are taking place, and I look forward to seeing the completed project.”
The original plan came under massive fire from many quarters – in particular charities for the blind and partially sighted.
The planned pedestrian zone would see the roads and pavements all at the same level to make the town centre – at the end by the main John lewis entrance – a pedestrian right of way over all traffic.
However, buses and cars would still be using the road, which led to fears about safety for blind and partially sighted users.
In particular, the fear was centred on the ability of Guide Dogs to negotiate the area safely as they are trained to recognise dropped kerbs as a danger and to lead their owners to traffic light-controlled crossings which beep when it is safe to cross.
The Observer led a front page appeal for the plans to be scrapped when they were first announced, backing the calls of the charities.
And the calls of those concerned were in part heard by the Council which agreed to install three additional uncontrolled ‘courtesy’ crossings at the start of the pedestrian zone to increase safety.
The Council says next month’s works are being delivered in a way that minimises disruption and inconvenience to local businesses, residents and road users.
Pedestrian access will be maintained to all frontages along Poplar Road and Station Road and access to town centre car parks will not be affected.
A temporary one-way traffic flow system is being introduced for the duration of the work which will affect most of Station Road and Poplar Road except from its junction with the Warwick Road to the Marks and Spencer car park.
The works will be carried out in four stages and as they progress some temporary bus stops will be provided.
For specific details on these changes, visitors to the town centre should visit www.networkwestmidlands.com/gateway.
For anyone interested in the Solihull Gateway scheme and how it will affect them there are several information events happening in the Town Centre over the next few weeks:
Tuesday, February 24, from 12 noon to 3pm, Solihull Central Library.
Thursday, February 26, from 12 noon to 3pm, Solihull Central Library.
Saturday, February 28, from 9am to 3pm, Mell Square.
Saturday, March 7, from 10am to 1pm, Solihull Central Library.
For more information on the project visit: www.solihull.gov.uk/solihullgateway.