Anyone who has visited Coventry city centre since national lockdown measures began to ease in June will have struggled to miss the new cityscape: excavators and construction walls – in abundance.
Though all well-intentioned, with the aim of transforming the city centre with new paving, built-in concrete seating and an abundance of foliage, Coventry City Council could not have picked a worse time.
With social distancing measures at the forefront of people’s mind, taking a stroll through the Upper Precinct has become a maze, made more difficult by men in yellow vests trying to do their job and a barrage of people coming directly towards you.
The situation was even worse on Market Way, where the demolition of Coventry Point left a several metre wide enclosed tunnel, in which beggars often chose to take refuge, to pass through en route to city centre East. Thankfully, with Coventry Point now decimated, the enclosure has been removed and tunnel slightly widened.
Giant yellow “please observe social distancing” signage, while well-meaning, doesn’t much help.
A clear, one-way system to gently guide shoppers through the Upper Precinct – not to be forced upon them – would go a long way in calming the apprehension of some far more than obtuse yellow signage.
It shouldn’t go unmentioned that the works being done will, in the end, be worth the momentary disruption, and at any other time it would be quite the ‘first world problem’, but in the midst of a pandemic the City Council needs to radically rethink the way it and its contractors do public realm work.
In such times, precedence should be given to the availability of space for those passing through the city centre, not the timeline of construction projects.
An approach, of the caliber taken in the decision to close High Street to vehicles to allow more space for those queueing for banks, would be welcome.