Professor Rachel Cooper OBE: Distinguished Professor, Lancaster University
I have lived in Poynton for 46 six years. Despite spending periods in the USA for sabbaticals and travelling widely as an academic I have always come home to Cheshire and Poynton. I am very proud of the campaigning spirit of the place.
Fiercely independent its residents campaigned in 1974 to keep Poynton in Cheshire and out of the hands of Greater Manchester, periodically an ongoing battle. We still call it a village although it is now a town. But in my time in Poynton, I am most proud of the innovative thinking that resulted in a radical change to the centre of the ‘village’. This was cut in half by the A523 from Manchester south to Macclesfield, Stoke-on Trent and historically London. There was a four-way traffic light system with accompanying multiple road markings and signage, and as a pedestrian negotiating the racing traffic, the place felt hostile and fractured. But after much dispute, angst and complaints about disruption and design. Poynton’s innovative Shared Space Scheme was completed in 2012.
It was designed by Hamilton-Baillie Associates and prepared with Planit-IE Landscape Architects. And to me it is wonderful: it changed the entire centre both aesthetically, but importantly, socially and culturally. The wide pavements meant more café and social space… everything spilled out into the street. The culture of shared space created a sense of community, courtesy and increased friendliness. The slower traffic enabled road crossing anywhere and a wave to the drivers and pedestrians. It gave us a centre again.
Of course, there is ongoing controversy – advocates for the reintroduction of traffic lights, concern over how to drive through the roundels, and more recently the lack of appropriate maintenance, so that some of the original paving is poorly repaired and patchy. But I would never change it and when the new bypass is finished it will be even better. Infrastructure influences atmosphere and behaviour and I live in a place that has been brave enough to understand that and enjoy the results.