This project has its roots in three different public consultations going back to 2012. The consultations have informed the design decisions made by our expert team of:
- transport planners
- civil engineers
- town planners
- and landscape architects
Our team have carefully developed the design, with help and support from the Braintree Town Partnership and Braintree Museum.
You can contact us if you want to find out about the details of the consultations we held on the scheme.
Results of the 2012 consultation
The main feedback from our consultation in 2012 was:
- 72% liked the suggestion of returning market place to a full market square
- 73% liked the idea of adding benches and tree
- 87% wanted occasional attractions and events like speciality markets will boost enjoyment of the town
- 91% wanted to improve the quality, range and variety of the market to attract more shoppers
Results of the 2018 consultation
In 2018, we asked residents, businesses and visitors what they thought about restricting vehicle access along Market Place and most of the High Street.
- 76% of responses were in favour of pedestrianising the town centre
- 21% were not in favour
- 3% had no preference
The top reasons for supporting the scheme were:
- safer environment for people
- allows more events and markets
- pavements will get fixed
- encourage more shops into the town
- reduce pollution
Results of the 2019/20 consultation
Between December 2019 and February 2020, we held a consultation to understand
- what residents, visitors and businesses wanted to see in their town centre
- how they thought we should relook at the way we use the new space as part of the scheme
The feedback from this consultation was included in the final scheme design.
Since 2012, people have shown strong support for pedestrianising the town centre. People told us it would:
- create a safer environment
- allow for more events and markets
- fix the paving,
- reduce pollution
- be easier and nicer to walk around
Our designs will do all these things.
With the support of Essex County Council and Department for Transport, we have raised a £2.95million budget to achieve this long-awaited improvement scheme.
When finished, it will see across Market Place, Great Square, Bank Street and the High Street:
- new solid paving and a single level surface
- all regular traffic removed (with some key exceptions)
- the new space enhanced with trees
- several new seating areas
You can see the artist impressions of what this could look like. [link to designs page]
We hope you like it as much as we do, and can see the positive change it will bring to the town.
The aims of the scheme
Clearly a town has a range of matters that are important for its vitality, and we have not forgotten that people also want a better range and number of shops in the town. We do too, but this is a complex area that is mostly subject to the free market beyond our direct control.
The key factors affecting the range of shops in the town are:
- building ownership and private leases
- shop rents
- business rates
- the number of visitors and shoppers
We do not own any of the shop buildings on the high street. So we don’t set the rents for shops or have a say in who leases them. Our only influence is through planning we can control the use of the buildings, but not the types of business that settle in the town. We also have no control over business rates which are set by central government.
To balance the cost of rents, rates, stock and staff, shops and services need people spending money in them or else they will not make enough money to survive. If the footfall is not high enough then the prospect of doing business in the town is not good enough to entice more shops in. We can influence the number of people visiting the town through events, markets and a better environment.
How the town centre is changing
We’ve worked hard on the Christmas light switch on events and street markets to attract huge crowds to the town, to create a better commercial. Because the road was still a road and buses were still running through, we couldn’t do it all the time. But pedestrianisation will give us that public space, allowing us the room to
- run much more regular events (cultural, festive, community, musical, artistic)
- a wider variety of markets that we know you value
We know the last two years has really seen town centres suffer a significant blow, with many shops announcing widespread closures. It is clearly not a blip. Town centres and the wider retail market are undergoing major structural changes, and change is most likely to stick with us in the long term.
This is the nature of our town centre changing and it’s the same everywhere across the county. The growth in online shopping has undoubtedly been a huge key driver of this change and one which shows no sign of slowing down. It’s here to stay. Recent statistics show 31.2% of retail sales in the UK were completed online, which has grown 12.9% in just one year.
But we need to recognise that shops where you can’t, or might not want to, buy online are still of huge value to the town’s footfall including:
- beauty therapists
- the Post Office
- hairdressers and barbers
- nail salons, solicitors
- charity shops
These are a very important part of the town centre and without any one of them, other businesses would find it harder going. The COVID-19 queues for the barbershops only highlight their hidden footfall benefits.
The power of shopping locally is real. The more we can buy locally is the best way that we can all support the town and help it change back to the place we want it to be.
Pedestrianisation can help by allowing us to do more good things to attract more people into the town more often and give them reasons to stay for longer. In turn, this will support business to stay here and grow, and attracting new businesses in.
And there really is much to be positive about. New shops are opening, just like:
- Mosaic Turkish restaurant
- Chelles Boutique
- Poundworld in George Yard
- TOAST café
Also, the new Manor Street regeneration development is underway, the street markets have been hugely popular.
Braintree town centre does have a future, that is worth all of us being excited about. But we must understand how society has changed, and how as a result, the town won’t be the same as it was.
The work will cause some disruption in the short-term, just like any construction project. However, the end result will create
- a fantastic new space for people to visit and socialise
- opportunities to host more markets and events
- more green and social spaces
- the environment to bring more people into our town centre
Shopping locally for the things we need has never been more important today and into the future and help boost trade for our local businesses.
Our timeline information gives you the latest plans and progress on the scheme. [link to timeline page]
Keep up to date
You can email us if you have any questions about the pedestrianisation of Braintree town centre.
You can also get regular updates on news and progress on the scheme and the Victoria Square development by:
- signing up for our free email newsletter
- following our Facebook page