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A pop-up scheme to create outdoor seating areas for businesses and more space for shoppers in the historic streets near Leicester Market is to be made permanent.

Leicester City Council has announced its intention to make the measures in the St Martins area permanent, creating traffic-free shopping streets with wider pedestrian spaces and room for businesses to provide street café-style seating areas.

Picture: Leicester City Council

The measures have been in place on a temporary basis since August 2020, when they were introduced to help cafes, restaurants and other businesses in the area accommodate customers safely and bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, the changes have proven popular with visitors and businesses and the city council is now seeking to make the changes permanent.

Alongside these permanent measures, the city council also plans to invest up to £1.3million on a range of improvements which could include repaving the main carriageway in high-quality stone, new street furniture and automatic bollards, and new decorative planting and artwork.

Deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on environment and transportation, said: “St Martins and the nearby Lanes are home to a great many independent businesses including cafes, bars and restaurants. It is vital that we continue to support local businesses like these by investing in high quality, people-friendly streets and spaces. At the heart of the city’s historic Old Town, St Martins is also an important and popular destination for visitors to the city.

“By making these measures permanent and investing in a range of other improvements, we can help create a much safer and more attractive environment and encourage more people to walk or cycle in and around the city centre. It is important that we all do our bit to address the climate emergency and improve air quality in Leicester, as well as supporting our local businesses wherever possible.”

Simon Jenner, BID Leicester director, said: “BID Leicester is unequivocally supportive of the proposed pedestrianisation of St Martins. The pop-up changes have helped to make this a green and attractive space which is popular with our businesses and the public.

“We welcome the additional capacity this offers for outdoor customers and increased revenue at a time when food and drink businesses in particular face challenging trading conditions.

“The fantastic space that has been created has been chosen as the cover image for our new business plan which will be seen by national high street businesses and other BIDs across the country. 

 “It’s a great scheme that demonstrates Leicester is a city that puts people and the environment first.”

Adam Markwell, director at Shearer Property Group which owns St Martins Square, said: “We are very supportive of the pedestrianisation of St Martins. During the temporary road closure since Covid we have continued to see footfall improving and have had a steady stream of new tenants attracted to St Martins Square as the go-to destination for independent restaurants, shops and customers.

“The changes have added to the overall ambiance of this historic conservation area and provided our tenants on St Martins and Cank Street with valuable space for outdoor seating and alfresco dining, which is proving very popular.”

Leicester City Council has now made a formal application for the traffic regulation order needed to make the temporary measures permanent.

The proposals include making permanent the full pedestrianisation of St Martins, between Loseby Lane and Cank Street, which will remain open to pedestrians and cycles only. The short section of St Martins, between Loseby Lane and the King Richard III Visitor Centre, will also be permanently closed to motor vehicles.

The existing temporary extension of the city centre pedestrian zone to include the whole of Grey Friars will also be made permanent. This means access for loading only will continue to be available between 5am and 11 am from Sunday to Friday, and between 5am and 9am on Saturdays.

Cank Street and Hotel Street will be permanently incorporated into the existing Market Place pedestrian zone, which allows access for deliveries from 5am to 10am, and from 4pm to 6pm, seven days a week.

 In response to feedback from businesses in the area, temporary additional loading bays were provided on nearby Peacock Lane and Market Place South. These will be made permanent.

 The current reversal of traffic flow around Market Place will also be made permanent.

 People have until Monday, August 12 to register their support or object to the proposals.