WOOD Street will be closed to traffic for three nights a week to make the area safer for pedestrians.

An experimental traffic regulation order is coming into force this week which will see cars, buses and bikes banned from the busy Old Town route between the High Street and Albert Street junctions on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 7pm to 6am.

Exceptions will be made for taxis, fire engines, police cars and ambulances, and it will not stop people who live on the street from accessing their homes.

At the moment, revellers enjoying a night out on Wood Street risk stumbling into through traffic, parked cars can block emergency vehicles, and taxi passengers arriving in the rank on the north side of the road often end up exiting the cabs into oncoming cars.

But this new change aims to remove these risks and make the popular night-time hub a safer place to party. It comes into effect following discussions on how to manage the traffic flow on the street.

Swindon Borough Councillor for the Old Town ward Coun Nick Burns-Howell said: “Thank you to all residents, businesses and officers who have joined in the discussions about the future of traffic on Wood Street.

"There were lots of strong views on the full pedestrianisation of the road with concerns about accessibility and deliveries that may have impacted day-time trade.

"Ultimately, while there was agreement to pilot a time limited pedestrianisation, there wasn’t sufficient demand from vendors to take up space on the road.

"My hope was that ‘alfresco street dining’ might help with expanding the number of tables that each establishment could operate, especially during the weekend. However, I’m still keen to revisit this next summer so will be speaking to businesses about how we could potentially pilot some changes in the future.

“The changes in this alternative TRO will help keep people safe during the busiest times on Wood Street with less vehicles using the road. It is experimental so please do get in touch if you have any feedback or suggestions.

"We are continuing to work with local businesses to see what other changes we can make as to support them as they look to recover from the unprecedented and challenging times this year.”

Swindon Supt Adrian Burt of Wiltshire Police, said: “We fully support the trial of this new traffic regulation order in Wood Street. This area of Old Town is hugely popular, especially during the weekends and it is important that the public feel safe when they are out and about.

“The trial of this new order will hopefully improve public safety and reduce the risk of any road related incidents in the area. We will continue to have a visible presence in Wood Street during Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and will maintain a close working relationship with Swindon Borough Council as they monitor the impact of this order.”

Other changes include the relocation of the taxi rank from the north to the south side of the street and the introduction of ‘no waiting’ and ‘no loading at any time’ regulations on the north side.

After the first six months of the order being in place council officers will review feedback and, in consultation with councillors, will agree any modifications that need to be made.

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for public safety Coun Cathy Martyn said: “We take public safety very seriously and this traffic regulation order is intended to make sure people can enjoy themselves on Wood Street at weekends without having to worry about passing cars.

“Due to the coronavirus outbreak, we were unable to proceed with the changes when they were first announced back in March, but officers have been working extremely hard behind the scenes and I am pleased to be able to say that the changes will come into force this weekend.

“We have been working closely with Wiltshire Police and we are both confident that this order will make a positive difference to the already popular nightlife in Old Town.”

Anyone wishing to make comment on the proposals will be able to do so during the first six months via the council’s website at www.swindon.gov.uk/trafficregulationorders under ‘Experimental traffic regulation orders’ reference (H&T/TRO/Wood Street).

Any comments received will be used to inform the future of this trial. For more information, visit www.swindon.gov.uk/trafficregulationorders