‘Wonky’ Hereford shopping street needs six-figure sum to be straightened out


The bill is in for the fixing of Hereford’s ‘wonky’ Widemarsh Street. Herefordshire Council has set aside some £700,000 to take the shopping back to the way it was before its wilfully uneven £1 million revamp 12 years ago.

Right now, tape has the measure of Widemarsh Street which is effectively going back to start as a solution to its trip-prone layout. The kerbs on the section of the street that leads into the Old Market having been lined with tape replicating that used during the original construction work.

A newly backed budget plan for improvements to Hereford city centre confirms the council is ready to pay £715,000 to straighten the street out. That’s part of an overall £6 million including over £800,000 spent on planters – most of which will align the city link road.

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Other spends in the £6 million package – with management costs alone coming in at over £582,000 – are:

  • Cycle contraflow on St Owen Street: £700,000
  • High Town enhancements: £572,407
  • Façade improvement grants and business grants: £500,000
  • “Hostile vehicle movement”: £500,000
  • City greening: £362,000
  • Cathedral and River Wye Quarter design: £340,000
  • City trees: £320,000
  • Public art and installations: £243,000
  • High Town works: £211,642
  • CCTV: £60,500
  • Market and event infrastructure: £30,500
  • Cycle Shelters for City Green: £30,000

Being such a prominent pedestrian route, the ups and all too frequent downs of Widemarsh Street have come to illustrate the fortunes of various council administration over efforts to enhance the city centre. Since 2010, a trip into town could be taken literally by shoppers negotiating the uneven surface.

Falls on the street’s deliberately designed uneven surface – essentially a series of small raised kerbs separating the pavement from the carriageway – have had compensation claims made against Herefordshire Council since the resurfacing costing more than £1 million was completed. Complaints came in from the off that the small kerbs edging the remaining single-carriageway road was causing trips and falls – the council even had to place black gaffer tape, measuring 20 millimetres in width, along the top of the kerb to draw attention to it.

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As of 2018 – from figures it took a Freedom of Information application to extract – more than 100 people had reported tripping up on the street since the kerb since was placed. Those figures also revealed 12 unsuccessful injury claims made by fallers.

Herefordshire Council has continuously defended the low-lip design of the pavement, saying it was put in after extensive consultation to ensure compliance with legislation and guidance. But late last year, central ward councillor Jeremy Milln acknowledged ‘levelling up’ as the answer having previously apologised that it had not already happened.

The initial aim was level up the road way with a resin-bound compound of a suitable colour and texture rather than digging it up at greater expense and time. But the council concedes levelling up is a ‘balancing act’ against the number of vehicles using the street after 4.30pm when there is still a considerable numbers of pedestrians and a need for distinction.

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