Idea to make Montrose High Street more pedestrian friendly

Ideas that arose from the Montrose Charrette went on display at Montrose Library last week.
Ideas that arose from the Montrose Charrette went on display at Montrose Library last week.

Making Montrose High Street more pedestrian-friendly, creating links between the focal points of the town and offering townsfolk more to do on an evening were among the array of ideas to come out of the Montrose charrette.

A public display of the outcomes of the Montrose Talks charrette, which took place in March, went on display at the town library last week.

One of the main ideas to come out of three-day event was the need to regenerate the High Street, including widening the pavement to make it more pedestrian-friendly, improving the access for disabled and elderly people, and breathing new life into the second and third floors of many of the buildings, which are currently empty.

The event in March and the final presentation was led by Austin Smith: Lord.

Graham Ross, from Austin Smith: Lord, said the high street currently is at around two-thirds traffic to one-third pedestrians when ideally it should be the other way around.

He said: “Montrose has got a lot to be positive about, there are a lot of passionate people who believe in growing it a lot more.

“The High Street has got to be the main focus.”

He said to keep the town thriving there needs to be a flow from the train station and the Basin, to the High Street, on to the Mid Links and down to the beach, showing visitors how to get from A to B and pointing out places of interest.

One way to do this could be improved signage but more inventive and cost-effected ideas, such as having a group of volunteers directing visitors around the town, were also suggested.

Alex Sneddon, transport specialist, said: “Too much space is given in Montrose to vehicles.

“Not everybody drives but everybody is a pedestrian. Once you step out of your car you’re a pedestrian.”

Montrose Councillor Bill Duff said: “I was very much impressed by the team of consultants assembled, their knowledge and experience of similar towns and their ideas and obvious enthusiasm for Montrose and the opportunities for improving our town.

“For me the three things that emerged that we should consider are - better signposting and better paths and perhaps more emphasis on cycle ways, a re-design of the High Street with increased space for pedestrians and a serious consideration of creating a civic space and consideration of either a one way system or a pedestrian-only zone and a revitalisation of the town centre by bringing the upper floors of the High Street into use by converting into affordable flats, of which there is a serious shortage in Montrose.

“As always the challenge will be to find funding, but the charrette process is a foundation for prising money from various governmental pots.”

Another thing that came out of the charrette was the need for more things to do on a evening, such as bars, national chain restaurants and a cinema - plans for which are already under way.

During the charrette, arts organisation WAVEparticle and the Montrose Playhouse Project put on an outdoor screening of pre-charrette footage of 48 hours in Montrose at the former swimming pool, which is the venue where the playhouse project aims to bring a picturehouse to the town.

Peter McGaughey, of WAVEparticle, said: “A lot of people told us it was a great space. That was one way of taking an idea and putting it into action.”

Graham added: “You’ve got to offer something that is family friendly, something for young people and something for everybody.

“People who we spoke to, especially the school children, said they love living in Montrose.

“They would like to have something to keep them in Montrose other than going to cities like Dundee and Aberdeen.”

Other ideas that arose from the event were the possibility of creating a boardwalk at the train station that would overlook the Basin and turning Montrose into a cycle holiday destination.

Developed by Angus Council with funding assistance from Scottish Government, Montrose Talks has been led by experts from the fields of town planning, architecture, property development and community regeneration.