June 25, 2021

Social distancing road closures: a thing of the past or here to stay?

Palmerston Road in Southsea, as it appears closed to traffic

Residents, businesses and people travelling through roads closed to enable social distancing during the pandemic are being asked for their experience of the changes and whether they should be made permanent.

Portsmouth City Council closed a number of roads to create space for walking and cycling during the height of the restrictions. In between lockdowns some of these places have become pleasant spaces to also dine outside and meet with friends. The temporary adaptation of road space for people to walk and cycle has remained in place throughout the pandemic. As restrictions and social distancing measures have reduced it has now become important to understand if these changes are something that people would like to see made permanent.

The views of people that live and work in and around these roads are particularly important as they have first-hand experience of the recent changes. The council has written to residents and businesses to invite them to share their views. This will also provide an opportunity for people to raise specific concerns which may have an impact on whether this permanent change should or should not go ahead.

People outside the area who would like to take part in the survey can also share their views as this will enable the council to understand if visitor numbers have increased to businesses and if it has provided a safer route for people to walk and cycle.

The changes on all four roads – Palmerston Road, Guildhall Walk, Canal Walk and Castle Road, have been continuously reviewed and adjustments have been made, where possible, to address concerns that have been raised.

If the roads were opened to people walking and cycling, and closed to cars, on a permanent basis initial changes would be made and then funding would be sought for further improvements to create a more pleasant place to live, work and visit.

On Castle Road a further option is being proposed that would reduce the flow of traffic whilst allowing access for deliveries at certain times of day. This hybrid approach would include a one-way lane for vehicles from south to north that would exit via Hambrook Street. People who walk and cycle would be able to access all of Castle Road, however, just north of Hambrook Street the road would be closed to motor vehicles. This would stop Castle Road being used as a cut through and would reduce traffic significantly whilst enabling market stalls and outside dining. The image shows an illustration of how this could look.

Cllr Lynne Stagg, Cabinet Member for Traffic and Transportation, said “Opening up Palmerston Road South to businesses to operate outside and restricting vehicles has created a lovely atmosphere and I hope this will remain. However we will only make each of the road closures permanent if this is something the majority of people that live and work in the areas would like to see as it impacts them on a day to day basis. We also want to understand whether residents are gaining the benefit from visiting the areas or using the safer routes. Please take part in the surveys on the council website which will inform the decision being made in September.”

The easiest way to take part in the survey is by visiting The survey takes approximately 5 minutes and closes on Sunday 25 July 2021. If anyone is unable to take part online they can call 023 9261 6708 to organise a convenient time to complete the survey by phone. Opening hours are 9am-4pm, Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays.

A decision will be made in September based on the analysis of the results. If the decision is made to remove the changes the restrictions will be removed over the following weeks. If the changes are to be made permanent a formal consultation will take place as part of a Traffic Regulation Order lasting 21 days.