Boscawen Street-neither busy nor beautiful now
The time has come – if it has not long passed – when someone must clearly say ‘Enough is enough!’ It is time to remove all this paraphernalia from Boscawen Street, and to remove the artificial oxbow, the winding cart-track, the Wilko pinch-point, the single-lane passageway for two-way traffic, marked out by very smart but wholly inappropriate flower tubs. If it is an ‘experiment’, then it has failed.
It is dubbed an ‘experiment’ but it does not appear to have any method, let alone a problem to solve. Indeed, the whole thing is born of the desire to be seen to be doing something; saving face! Full pedestrianisation was not feasible because, as a retailing and service delivery town, Truro needs customers, clients, workers and visitors, and in these climate-conscious carbon-zero times the bus is essential to our trading survival.
Boscawen Street is one of the eminent jewels of Cornwall’s heritage crown – at least it was until all this started. Now, it is anxious, risky, distorted by winding traffic with buses staring each other down amid constant snarls. It’s like a shambolic jousting field! There is no reliable evidence (only conflicting anecdotes) about the impact on trade. One thing that cannot be counted but is evident from comment and eavesdropping is that there are many people who are so saddened by the loss of elegance, the clutter and disruption, that they simply don’t come to Truro any more. This may be an effect complicated by Covid, but the sheer ugliness and confusion of it all is an often-cited reason.
Many ask: ‘What was the problem in the first place?’
The bulk of traffic was removed from Boscawen Street in the 1960s when the by-pass diverted the A39 and A390 to what we grandly call Morlaix Avernue (which is a by-pass, not an avenue, and doesn’t go to Morlaix!). Boscawen Street was, until all this got imposed without consultation, a busy commercial street, elegantly spacious, that was easy to read, easy to cross and to be safe in – hence the miniscule accident record.
Truro’s post-war commercial prowess arose from the great investment in infrastructure made during the 1960s which de-trafficked the town centre (but didn’t stop it being accessible), built car parks on strategic approach routes, provided rear servicing to the primary retail area, and bravely demolished the Trevail Post Office, the C19th Boscawen Bridge and the former Fighting Cocks Inn, to enable the successful rising of the Trurra Phoenix.
One other relocation – that of the Livestock Market from Castle Hill to Newquay Road – has perhaps removed ‘out of sight, out of mind’ the economic facility which embodies the vital relationship between our market town and the rural land-based industries which surround it. This linkage is as strong today as ever, and, with climate change, is likely to become even stronger. If Truro is an economic engine, it is fuelled by rural life and business.
Truro relies upon the comings and goings of buses. With rates, rents and overheads so high (and with inflation, climbing!) we need to enable the best possible conditions for strong trade – otherwise, we will not see investment. Instead, we will see a decline in the amount of, and quality of, employment, the range of businesses, the quality of services, and the conservation of our heritage.
The current cluttering of Boscawen Street is producing no benefits.
The so-called experiment is a flawed exercise. It is going on too long. It has already easily proved that it is of no use or value. Let it be gone – we have business to be getting on with, office workers we need to encourage to return, premises to re-let, visitors to delight – we need vibrancy, quality and confidence – not rancour, risk and recriminations.
Give us back our Front Street; restore it to its beautifully open, relaxed, safe and lively accessibility, and focus on filling up the offices so that the 12-2 weekday trade can make its vital contribution to paying the rents, rates and wages! Render unto Trurra her Front Street in one piece, and do it NOW, please!