TRAFFIC chiefs are poised to reopen a major Winchester road after an experimental closure sparked by the Covid crisis.

Hyde Street was shut last year to allow for easier social distancing on North Walls, one of the city's main arteries. Temporary barriers that narrowed the two-lane highway to one lane will be removed from North Walls.

The closure was popular with people living in Hyde as it made their neighbourhood much quieter but largely unpopular with people living on roads made busier such as Worthy Lane and drivers stuck in the increased traffic in the city centre.

The recommendation has been revealed with the publication today of the reports going to the Hampshire County Council executive decision day on Thursday July 29.

The report said the closure of Hyde Street and the narrowing of North Walls would still be "considered as part of a longer term package of improvements". But it admitted the arrangement has been "unable to cope" with current traffic volumes.

A new idea is traffic lights on Worthy Lane with Andover Road and keeping Hyde Street open one-way only.


North Walls: narrowing is set to be ended

North Walls: narrowing is set to be ended


City councillor John Tippett-Cooper said on social media this afternoon: "The bottom line with all of this is that we have an increasingly more evident and serious climate emergency - as a City we need to find the most effective ways of reducing air pollution and encouraging people out of cars where possible - not every idea seeking to achieve this will work, but we have to do everything possible to achieve this goal."

Meanwhile, the decision day is set to approve other less controversial measures including pedestrian improvements on Jewry Street, contraflow cycling on St Peter Street and Parchment Street; and a signal crossing of Romsey Road at Clifton Terrace.

Earlier this year the county council consulted on the Hyde Street/North Walls changes and 970 people responded, with 53 per cent saying it would encourage them to use 'active travel', walking or cycling, on North Walls whilst 42 per cent said it would not.

Closing Hyde Street split the city with 46 per cent both for and against. A petition with 1,618 called ‘Re-open Hyde Street to all vehicles’ was presented to the county council in March. Groups such as Winchester Action on Climate Change campaigned for the closure to be retained.

READ MORE HERE: Green campaigners battle to keep Hyde Street closed

A proposed contraflow cycle lane on Upper High Street was not popular with local residents as it would impede parking and deliveries. It has now been dropped by the county council.

In the report to the July 29 meeting the council said: "That traffic volume in the city have recovered to pre pandemic levels and at some times of the day they are above. That the nature of private vehicle travel being undertaken has changed with less commuting and an increase in what appears to be non-essential trips i.e. leisure, holiday, shopping and socialising. These trips are made

outside the traditional peak periods leading to a very different traffic situation that is also likely to change."


Hyde Street: currently closed to through traffic

Hyde Street: currently closed to through traffic


The county council appears to like the idea of closing Hyde Street and narrowing North Walls, stating "The measures implemented on Hyde Street and North Walls have been proven to work with minimal journey time impact when there is approximately 10% less vehicles in the city centre, and as such suggest that there is considerable merit in the scheme concept, which will be considered as part of a broader package of improvements."  It would like to create a 'segregated two-way cycle route' along North Walls.

The report said journey time data obtained by on-street traffic counters confirms that on most routes into the city, journey times are comparable in June 2021 to pre-Covid times. This includes North Walls. However, journey times since June have been marginally longer on Worthy Lane and Andover Road suggesting that the temporary arrangements are unable to cope with current traffic volumes as well as the situation before."

And the report added: "Retaining the temporary measures may increase congestion and queuing traffic, which could have a further negative effect on air quality in the immediately local area. Therefore, it is important to consider the future of these schemes in a broader context as part of the Winchester Movement Strategy identified as a core action of the 2020 Air Quality Management

Action Plan, which will also consider wider priorities of tackling urban congestion to reduce traffic emissions, improve air quality and noise, health and well-being.

"The conclusion from this is that retaining the temporary measures as they are with an impending situation of even higher level of traffic than pre-Covid times is likely to result in congestion being greater than is currently experienced.

"Removal of the temporary Active Travel measures may go some way to relieving the recent increase in traffic congestion. However, it should be noted that the fundamental cause of congestion is the increasing traffic levels as they return to pre pandemic levels. This means that whilst traffic may be eased slightly by removing the temporary measures, it may not be perceived to get significantly better."

A consultation on the action plan for the Winchester Movement Strategy is due by the end of the year.

More reaction to follow