Tomorrow sees the 2018 scheme commence with its last day on Friday, 14th September. That’s a serious extension on previous years’ versions. The daily start and finish times of 11 am to 5.30 pm remain unchanged from last year.
But this ‘way of street life’ in Tenby has spent many years in gestation. Back in 1999, Tenby 2020, the then active community initiative, produced an Action Plan. Yes, the town has had many of those, almost as many as its consultations. However, one of the most significant ideas dealt with the town’s biggest bugbear: traffic. You see, when Tenby, located on a narrow isthmus, was built the motor vehicle had not been invented. Its 13th Century town walls were to keep marauders outside, not trap them within.
The action, in 2000? A one day’s pedestrianisation, including live music, retailing stalls and cafes, bars and restaurants bursting out onto the street, in an orderly fashion, much as you see in Spain, France and elsewhere in Europe. And it was a great success.
This was followed in 2002 by a month’s trial and, in 2003, a public inquiry. You can’t please all the people all the time. The Tenby Walled Town Residents Association, which appointed consultants to work on its behalf, wrote to Pembrokeshire County Council notifying it of its decision to go to the High Court. It said if the council agreed to hold a public inquiry it would not go ahead. The public inquiry was held, the residents & businesses were duly divided. The Council boldly went forth, with significant support from the town’s Chamber of Trade & Tourism. Eventually, peace broke out & residents within the town walls worked with the permit access process.
Now town centres are under the cosh: retailers around the UK are suffering from out of town and, mostly, internet purchasing patterns. So action is needed to preserve the soul of town centres and perhaps Tenby has the very core of what that soul might comprise: one-off shops, with other national traders for basics; the cafes, restaurants & bars that other town & city centres are completing their customer offers with, but here all are unique – no Wetherspoon, Costa, Café Nero, Ask, Strada, etc etc which are almost everywhere. But not in Tenby!
And how better to enjoy the ‘café culture’, the original mission of Tenby 2020, than with the freedom to move , at whatever speed you want, and stop for a coffee, a bite to eat, a cooling drink around the town centre, unthreatened by cars, vans, lorries, just enjoying the stroll and imagining you are in Spain, France, Italy ….and you are in Wales’ favourite seaside town.
Maybe, one day, we’ll have the courage of our customers’ aspirations and enjoy pedestrianisation all year round. For the time being, we hope you enjoy our café culture.