WHAT started in Winchester in 1974 should now be finished off, says a retired city architect.

Stephen Harte says now is the time to complete the pedestrianisation of the High Street from King Alfred’s Statue to the Westgate, turning the road into one ‘linear piazza’.

Mr Harte, a former senior architect for Hampshire County Council, says the measure would make the most of one of the city’s finest features, in use since at least Roman times and possibly for 8,000 years.

“Today, the High Street is dislocated by its road system, with the traffic and accompanying noise and pollution. Whilst the centre is pedestrianised, the top of the street carries heavy traffic and vehicles use the road in front of the Guildhall.”

He says it would bring many benefits, including helping to integrate the military museums of Peninsula Barracks into the rest of the city, so “establishing a much more compelling sense of what the city represents and what it offers to visitors.

“The High Street is such a fabulous thing, so compact and with so many historic and cultural sights in such a short distance.

“I’m presenting a vision. If there is a will it will happen. It can happen,” saying the technical details of things such as deliveries to shops would have to be worked out.

His ideas are:

- the linear piazza;

- trialling a shared pedestrian/vehicular crossing at Southgate /Jewry Street, with no traffic allowed up the High Street;

- creating people-friendly ‘squares’ on Jewry Street at Barclays and outside the Guildhall on The Broadway;

- strengthening the connection between the High Street and the six military museums, perhaps opening up Gar Street;

- clearer pedestrian links to Parchment Street;

- improving the pedestrian experience in St George’s Street and access through St Maurice’s Covert to the Outer Close, which is already planned by the city council;

- use empty shop frontages for displays of city archaeology;

- a gallery/museum area by the Guildhall and Abbey Gardens;

- improving High Street furniture design.

Mr Harte suggests converting Abbey House, the mayor’s official residence, into an art gallery and laying a glass floor over the Nunnaminster remains, next to the Guildhall and building a gallery above it with attractive views over Abbey Gardens.

He acknowledges implementing his ideas would not be simple but states: “The mobility strategy for the city has yet to be sorted. The eight major roads which converge on the centre need to be resolved so that they do not downgrade the heart of the city. Things have to give if we value a High Street fully connected along its length. It should be an absolute priority for the High Street and would unlock opportunities for how the city centre can evolve.”

Mr Harte, a member of the City of Winchester Trust and a longtime resident of the city, put forward his ideas in the trust’s newsletter. Although it is not its official policy, the trust is supportive and keen to dispel the idea that it is a negative and reactionary group. The newsletter describes Mr Harte’s ideas as realistic and positive and a “vision for maximising the potential of the historic High Street”.