Wokingham Borough and Town Councils are aware that some people have raised safety concerns over the new look Market Place – and as you would expect - have already started assessing the area for safety purposes during this settling in period.
Although the redesigned market place has received a lot of positive feedback and has already hosted a successful Heritage Day and Market Celebration (September 15), the councils are not complacent about potential safety issues. In order to make sure fully, and to consider any measures which may be necessary, those accessibility and disability groups and representatives who were consulted over the original design will be brought back together to review the scheme as it is actually working.
The borough council also commissioned an interim safety audit to see if any immediate action was required, however this did not find any measures were needed immediately and recommended any changes await the full review.
Executive member for Regeneration Cllr Philip Mirfin said: “Although the interim safety report recommends letting the scheme settle down and giving consideration after a full review, we have invited the representatives from the accessibility and disability groups, who were originally consulted on the design, to get back together and review the site in operation and to look at the interim safety report.
“Safety is of paramount importance – particularly when it concerns our more vulnerable residents - but it is also important that we don’t make knee-jerk changes to a scheme that was carefully designed with a lot of engagement with accessibility groups. It does take a little while for people to get used to changes and we need to be mindful of that, but if there are serious issues we will address them.”
Although the interim report did not highlight any immediate actions, it mentioned two areas that would need monitoring: (i) the brass studs used to mark the signalled pedestrian crossing may not stand out enough, increasing the chance of pedestrians choosing to cross elsewhere, and (ii) the granite setts adjacent to the 50cm kerb may not stand out enough for pedestrians. The report recommended that these issues be monitored and any action necessary be agreed after the full report (which can only be carried out when the current works at the Peach Street / Broad Street junction are complete).
While the safety issues are investigated, the benefits of the Market Place improvement are being felt.
Cllr Mirfin added: “We have welcomed our market traders back to their rightful place in the town centre and are seeing more and more people come back to shop in the town as well. We know the delays have been painful but we now have a Market Place that befits the historic nature of the town and complements the Town Hall and surrounding buildings.”
Among the features of the new look Market Place are:
An attractive, open look with a lot of the signage and much clutter removed
High-quality Yorkstone paving that is hardwearing and non-slip (unlike the old red brick that was hazardous, particularly when wet)
Improved access with the old uneven surface replaced
Removal of the dangerous bus lane
Replacement trees that are appropriate to town centre
Attractive new benches, litterbins and signage