Heavy traffic has shifted onto St Mary's Parsonage. Is this the new Deansgate?

St Mary's Parsonage has become Deansgate by proxy. The parallel street in the city centre is half the width of Deansgate and with pavements so narrow a kid drawn stick figure would feel in peril even on a quiet day. Yet with the closure of the adjacent section of Deansgate to motor vehicles the residents on the street are alarmed and annoyed about the parachuting in of this rapid change. 

St Mary’s Parsonage can be a crowded little street at the best times but the addition of articulated lorries and buses makes it an accident waiting to happen

It's only three weeks since Confidential published news of the trial closure of part of the northern end of Deansgate to motor traffic. 

At the time we wrote: 'Closing around 250m is neither fish nor fowl, and will reinforce the conversion of the parallel and narrow street of St Mary’s Parsonage Gardens into a rat-run.' 

The pedestrian and bike scheme began last Saturday, 16th May. The residents on St Mary's Parsonage received a leaflet the same day telling them all about it. This was a bit late.  

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St Mary’s Parsonage can be a crowded little street at the best times but the addition of articulated lorries and buses makes it an accident waiting to happen

As Howard Sharrock of Century Buildings writes: ‘Following the sudden closure of part of Deansgate, we woke last Saturday morning to the sound of at least three bus services, the MetroShuttle No 2, the No 8 Service and the X41 Accrington Service using our narrow street, in the St Mary’s Parsonage Conservation Area, as a new unheralded route. 

'Contact with Blue Diamond, the operators of the No 8 service, revealed that St Mary’s Parsonage was the simplest route for them following the closure of Deansgate. This closure has also resulted in a decant of lorries and private cars. Traffic levels are well up on last week’s. 

‘St Mary’s Parsonage can be a crowded little street at the best times but the addition of articulated lorries and buses makes it an accident waiting to happen. Numerous attempts to contact MCC have been in vain.

'There has been no consultation, no communication, no consideration.' 

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The barriers on Deansgate quoting the 'new normal' when the pedestrian and bike scheme is fundamentally nothing to do with coronavirus

The residents are not being nimbys here. They agree with increased pedestrianisation, traffic calming, and they welcome more greening of the city centre. They do not understand the nature of this seemingly rushed through closure of Deansgate and the inevitable conversion of St Mary's Parsonage into a main north-south artery. More particularly, they would have liked a little more notice.

An irony is, of course, that Parsonage Gardens, one of the few genuine green spaces in the city centre will now become clogged with exhaust fumes, especially when traffic levels start to return to the level we can expect in a functioning economy. Surely it would have made sense to route buses along Chapel Street in Salford? 

Manchester City Council say this is a trial period which will be the basis for consultation about how the scheme is working and whether it should be permanently implemented. Confidential is sure it will be permanently implemented whatever the consultation reveals.  This is not a cynical attitude, just one based on overwhelming evidence.

So when it is rubber-stamped it seems to us two things must happen. 

One, with the Deansgate section the world's ugliest 'temporary' collection of street furniture needs to be made into something that looks international standard. 

Two, St Mary's Parsonage should not be a rat-run, and not even a bus route, because it simply cannot support it. 

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A page of the leaflet distributed along St Mary's Parsonage with angry notes from a resident. Coronavirus is repeatedly used as a motivation for changes

A final point, why is the city council using COVID-19 as an excuse to justify policy it has long been promoting? The reasons for pedestrianisation are clear. Manchester can't be left behind in a common European direction of travel when it comes to its city centre, it must be kinder to pedestrians and cyclists, it must make the air fresher and make a simple stroll or ride more attractive. These reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with COVID-19 and to use it thus is cynical expediency

Confidential is presently talking to the council about their vision for a pre-vaccine re-opening of the city centre and will report back.

In response to the residents' concerns a Manchester City Council spokesperson said: "Rerouting buses along St Mary's Parsonage is not in line with the advice provided to operators by the council and Transport for Greater Manchester prior to the closure. We are in dialogue with the operator in question, with the intention of working with them to establish a satisfactory alternative route as soon as possible.

"We encourage any residents who have been affected, or who have any other comments regarding the Deansgate project, to let us know by emailing trafficfreedeansgate@manchester.gov.uk."

Good, the buses should get sorted then, that just leaves the cars and lorries which will be problem enough when the economy starts to move.

Read also: Deansgate to be pedestrianised (a bit)

Like this? Read: The Deansgate travelator: Manchester's craziest schemes

And: Does the public really have the right to reply if they disagree with Manchester City Council?