Plans are being drawn up to introduce unrestricted vehicular access to Commercial Street – heralding an end to the long-running days of pedestrianisation in Lerwick town centre.
The proposals have been drafted by town planners, in conjunction with retailers and town centre organisations, following recent efforts to breathe new life into the street.
It follows talks last year aimed at introducing a 20mph speed limit in parts of the town together with traffic calming measures. However, there are no plans to reduce the speed limit beyond the statutory 30mph level, under the new proposals.
The plans follow moves by a group of like-minded late-night motorists who have formed to create a group aimed at ensuring visitors to the street are spared the tiresome need to walk any distance greater than five feet.
The mostly youthful band of brothers, who have displayed a propensity for loud music, reclined driver’s seats and baseball caps, have made representation to the council to help drive home their message.
So far, they have gained relative success, with councillors holding a rush meeting in the town hall yesterday to discuss the instant abolition of the controversial bollards, which have restricted vehicular access in recent times. It is understood the motorists’ love of loud music would also do away with the need for town centre retailers to pursue a recent suggestion to play piped music along the street.
Staff at the SIC’s planning department are hurriedly drawing up a street redesign. Details are limited at this stage, but it is understood the street’s well-known surface-level slabs will be ripped up in favour of a new through-road.
The restricted width of the access from Church Street means no pavements are being planned. They could, potentially, be introduced where the street widens at the front of The Shetland Times Bookshop, but a makeshift layby, or vehicular “pitt-stop” as one source put it, is being planned for there instead.
The Market Cross, meanwhile, is to feature a major redesign which will see it reinvented as a proper, bona fide, mini-roundabout. There is nothing to suggest it will have a “compass” installed on top of it.
At the other end of the street, the plans are understood to have met favourably with management at the Fort ChipShop. There, a special hatch is being incorporated as part of a major extension, to offer a drive-thru for passing motorists.
The eatery is understood to have employed a major public relations consultant to help deal with a massive influx of inquiries as the news emerges.
The proposals have met with controversy among some town centre sources. One said the loss of the pedestrianised zone “flew against the face” of the need to conserve the town’s old character. He said the growing focus for more sustainable, public transport, was being lost.
“I think it’s a disgraceful step in the wrong direction, beyond a joke,” he said, before being knocked over by a lime green Citroen Saxo with extra fat tyres.