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Work to create a ‘Safer Cardiff’ city centre begins

Photo credit: Rhys Gregory / Wales247

Cardiff Council is investigating how it can work with partners to create a ‘Safer Cardiff’ for both residents and workers travelling into the city centre once the current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

An artist’s impression of the pilot scheme in Wellfield Road

Plans for Castle Street in the city centre and a pilot scheme for Wellfield Road, in Roath, have already been announced with a traffic lane cleared on Castle Street for cyclists and pedestrians.

Now discussions are underway which could see roads, footways and public space on Queen Street, St Mary Street, The Hayes and Churchill Way remodelled as well as other major footfall areas in the city centre. The council is also looking at introducing specific measures to help support businesses, including making some of the public realm available to restaurants in the city centre whose floor space will be restricted by social distancing measures.

The council is working with For Cardiff, which represents businesses in the city centre, and Arup a recognised technical expert on redesigning cities. The plans will be designed to ensure the safety of the public and to help businesses get up and running during the recovery period.

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “We are all living in extraordinary times and as the council continues to respond to the current issues during this pandemic, we also have to plan on how we are going to recover from this crisis once the lockdown has been lifted.

“We now have to look at how we can re-model the public space in the city centre and implement effective plans to ensure that social distancing measures can be maintained for everyone’s safety. Not only that – we have to find ways of making the city a great place to visit again, despite any restrictions which may have to be imposed.

“Clearly lots of people will still have concerns when lockdown is lifted, so we want to make sure when people think about Cardiff they think ‘yes, I know it’s safe to visit, safe to shop, safe to do business and it’s safe for me and my family to be there.’ We will work with experts in the field, consulting with businesses and residents who live in the city centre. It’s this ‘One City’ approach, which will enable us to Restart, Recover and Renew Cardiff. I’m determined we won’t miss the opportunities that could arise from this. We all want a safer, greener, cleaner and healthier city, one which will be sustainable in the long term.

“All of this will cost money which is why we will begin discussions with Welsh Government on how it can be funded. Cardiff is the economic heartbeat of Wales. It can’t be left on life support. Our plans will need to be fully backed if we are to get the city up and running again for the benefit of everyone who lives and works here and in the city region.”

Arup will develop a strategy in partnership with the council and business to support the city centre’s recovery from the economic and well-being impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The strategy will initially focus on ways to bring people back into the city and support the reopening of city-centre businesses, while enabling social distancing. Longer term, it will look at opportunities to improve access to high-quality open space, digital networks, air quality, resilient infrastructure, and active travel. District neighbourhoods will also be considered.

The concept for the immediate strategy is based around creating a welcoming city with space for pedestrians prioritised towards the centre. Welcome gateways will provide information, orientation and sanitisation areas. The measures used will be flexible to fit different business needs.

Long-term opportunities to improve the city centre experience are being considered to attract visitors and ensure the city’s resilience as it recovers from the economic impacts of the pandemic. The council will consult with city partners, residents, local councillors and staff but some options include creation of a loop of green public space around the city connecting existing public spaces; repurposed streets that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, consolidated logistics, and servicing linked to enhanced digital infrastructure and monitoring.

Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport, Cllr Caro Wild added: “This involves detailed work, looking at how space can be allocated safely to ensure social distancing measures can be maintained for motorists, cyclists and most importantly pedestrians.

“There is no doubt that this will be a significant challenge, but we are keen to ensure that plans are in place to re-open the city centre when it is safe to do so. We will work with local councillors to ensure the views of local residents are heard throughout the process.”

Cllr Russell Goodway; Cabinet member for Investment and Development, said: “We have already begun conversations with city businesses. They want to be involved and they want to see Cardiff restored. The challenges we face in restarting and renewing the city’s economy will only be overcome by working together in partnership. I’m confident we will bring forward a strategy which will shape the way we think about cities in a post-COVID landscape. We can’t allow our city centres to be places people are afraid to visit. This is vitally important work and could see Cardiff leading the agenda nationally on how urban centre recover from the pandemic.”

Sophie Camburn, Director, Integrated City Planningfor Arup, said: “Our team has brought together a range of expertise to create a strategy that will help the council respond to challenges and opportunities as they prepare to begin the gradual process of reopening the city centre.

“We have looked at how Cardiff can use its civic pride, creative capacity and underlying assets to respond to immediate practical needs, medium-term tactical changes and strategic opportunities to make a better place in the long term.”

An initial report on the strategy will go to Cardiff Council’s Cabinet on June 11, 2020.