Confusion over controversial plans to pedestrianise town centre areas

CONFUSION continues over a controversial suggestion to pedestrianise part of Stalybridge town centre.

Cllr Adrian Pearce, chairman of the newly-formed East Strategic Neighbourhood Forum, told the inaugural meeting in October there had been “no cast iron scheme” to ban vehicles from the lower part of Melbourne Street and Market Street.

And Emma Varman, assistant director for operations and neighbourhoods, added she was “certain there were no pedestrianisation plan” for the two streets.

Cllr Adrian Pearce at the recent Strategic Partnership meeting

But Lee Stafford, from Stalybridge Town, told the meeting from the public gallery that the proposal was detailed in a Tameside Council Strategic Capital Monitoring Panel document for all to see.

This was verified by resident Debbie Harford who explained it was a proposal and “not a throwaway comment”.

And when pressed whether the scheme had been scrapped, Cllr Pearce went on record as saying it had been.

Cllr Pearce and Mrs Varnan appeared unaware of the proposal in the monitoring panel document.

The plan to pedestrianise the two streets was raised during a presentation by Mrs Varnan entitled ‘Healthy lifestyles: walking and cycling in Tameside’.

Mrs Varnan was discussing the creation of ‘Beelines’, a network of routes for walking and cycling routes that are an initiative of Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham.

She revealed a pot of £160million is available for Greater Manchester over the next four years through the Transforming Cities Fund.

“It is our opportunity for us to grasp some of the money. Places like Manchester, Salford and Chorlton have already done so and are enthusiastic about it,” she explained.

It is hoped to provide alternatives to using cars, especially as 30 per-cent of all car journey are one mile or less while half of adults in Greater Manchester are inactive, something that costs the National Health Service more than £500,000 each week with road pollution a silent killer.

Cllr Liam Billington added he was “not quite as positive” due to the topography of Stalybridge that doesn’t favour cycling or walking.

He cited walking and cycling commissioner Chris Boardman’s suggestion that people are willing to cycle or walk for up to half and hour to get to work.

“It is a complete waste of time and money as 90 per-cent of the people of Tameside work outside the borough,” he said.

“There are cycle lanes all over the place, but nobody uses them.”

Cllr Billington added the emphasis ought to be growing the local economy as more jobs locally would ease the situation as well as bringing in more business rates.

And local campaigner Paul Broadhurst raised issues about Beelines with walkers and cyclists being mugged on them as they are often isolated.

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