Maidenhead Street is one of the town's main shopping streets and in the past has been home to major stores such as Woolworths and Fine Fare, as well as the town's first cinema.
In the latter part of the 20th Century, Maidenhead Street was pedestrianised, although traffic still uses the street for access.
In 2014, the Town Council undertook a project to establish what improvements and initiatives could benefit the area. At a meeting of the Council’s Finance, Policy and Administration Committee, Cllr Jane Sartin was tasked with leading the study. Cllr Sartin said: "There are many very successful businesses on Maidenhead Street and the neighbouring roads, but there have also been a particularly high number of empty units for a several years. I hope that businesses, landlords and residents will come on board to support this initiative, including putting forward their ideas for ways to improve and revitalise the area".
Proposed improvements include repaving Maidenhead Street, Bull Plain and The Wash, as well as making changes to vehicle access and traffic flow arrangements.
In 2017 a public exhibition took place outlining the improvement being proposed for Maidenhead Street, including repaving Maidenhead Street, Bull Plain and The Wash, as well as making changes to vehicle access and traffic flow arrangements to reduce pedestrian/vehicle conflict. Other proposals include an enhanced pedestrian crossing between the street at The Castle and the removal of on-street parking in Bull Plain (with the exception of disabled parking.
Survey work took place in early 2018 to better understand traffic movements in and around Maidenhead Street.
Works in Maidenhead Street
Improvements in Maidenhead Street include:
- Reversal of the one way on Maidenhead Street with no right turn at the end of The Wash (to dissuade unauthorised access to Maidenhead St from The Wash).
- Creation of an easier crossing area with a raised crossing at the junction between Maidenhead St and The Wash to increase the pedestrian feel of the area and to promote connectivity between Hertford East Railway Station and Hertford Theatre.
- Removal of the 12 parking bays in Bull Plain and a 'no waiting at any time' at the junction with Bull Plain to reduce traffic created by cars looking for spaces to park and to protect the junction from inconsiderate parking. The three disabled parking bays will be retained.
- Prohibiting cars from entering Maidenhead Street between 09:30am and 5:30pm to create a dedicated area for pedestrians and shoppers.
- Resurfacing Maidenhead Street in line with the guidance in the Hertford Urban Design Strategy.
The aim was to improve the environment for shoppers and others who use the town, and to encourage investment into the street.
The £1m project was funded jointly by East Herts Council, Hertford Town Council and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
In September 2018 work started on the project including the closure of The Wash for resurfacing.
Following a break over Winter, work restarted in Feruary 2019, with completion in the Spring.
As part of the works, new gates were installed at either end of Maidenhead Street to prevent vehicles using the street between 9am and 5:30pm. The first set of gates were found to be unsuitable and had to be removed as they didn't meet the necessary specifications. After a number of weeks the correct gates were finally installed.
There has been criticism of the gates as they do not prevent traffic entering and leaving the street. Whilst the gates open and close, they do not meet in the middle leaving a gap of over 2 metres. The council claims that this is necessary to meet legislation on disabled access.
Another issue with the gates is that they cannot be closed at 9am as scheduled if there are still vehicles in the street. Closing the gates would effectively mean that those vehicles cannot leave the street until the gates are reopened at 5:30pm.
Restrictions and Enforcement
As part of the new measures, a Traffic Regulation Order came in to force on 13th May 2019 banning all vehicles from Maidenhead Street between 9am amd 5:30pm.
However, whilst banning vehicular access to the street, it did not techically ban waiting or parking in the street. Therefore, Parking Attendents were now empowered to issue tickets to vehicles parked in the street and poloice have been unwilling to enforce the "moving traffic" offences created by the TRO.
A resulting stand off has been the police claiming that the District Council are responsible for enforcement, whilst the Ditrict Council claim that police are responsible for enforcement.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, the problem of vehicles abusing the regulations increasingly worsened, with large numbers of cars lining the street both during the day and evening.
With the increase in parking it became almost impossible to close the gates durinmg the day. This is turn led to an increase in people using the street as a rat run in both directions, despite the No Entry signs at the junction with The Wash.
Due to the increasing traffic, the granite stone surface has quickly become stained with motor oil.
As a result of these abuses councillors pressed for a new Traffic Regulation Order that could be enforced by the council's Parking Attendents.
After pressure fro residents and councillors, a new Traffic Regulation Order was implemented, taking effect from Monday 7th September 2020. This new TRO bans all waiting in the street 24 hours a day, with exceptions for goods vehicles. However, the council were still unable to enforce the new order due to the correct signage not having been installed ahead of the new regulations.
At the time of writing the issue remains. There are also questions regarding the future of the gates.
This article was last updated on 27th September 2020.