PEOPLE in Bradford on Avon vote next week on the controversial Historic Core Zone (HCZ) project, which includes scrapping the Market Street pedestrian crossing and installing different coloured sections of road, in a bid to make the town more pedestrian-friendly.

Although the scheme, which will begin this summer if Thursday’s Town Poll returns a Yes vote, means road closures in the town centre while work is carried out, it is being backed by businesses.

Owners of shops and pubs say that making it easier for people to walk around the town centre will bring in more shoppers and tourists, and help the local economy.

Ruth Warren, who owns Fetch pet shop in The Shambles, said: “As a business, I am prepared to have a short pain for the long-term gain. What we have for the town doesn’t work and I don’t see any good in not voting for this.”

“Market Street closed for two months last year, but this proposed partial closure won’t be as bad as that. We survived then, so we can do it again.”

The HCZ plan is expected to cost Wiltshire Council £2.5m. Its aim is to create equal rights on Bradford’s two main roads, Market Street and Silver Street, for motorists and pedestrians by using different coloured stones to mark out footpaths and the road.

The poll on Thursday is asking people if they want Phase One of the scheme, which only affects Market Street and Church Street, to go ahead in 2015.

Phase Two, which would bring similar changes to Silver Street, could then follow although the council, which is paying the £6,500 cost of the poll, has not yet allocated money for that.

Removing the pedestrian crossing on Market Street has prompted fears about accidents.

Godfrey Marks, who has campaigned on traffic issues in the town for more than 18 years and lives in Newtown, said removing zebra crossings would confuse many residents, particularly the elderly.

He said: “The evidence to keep the zebra crossing is irrefutable. There was a petition signed by 1,200 people last year and it is a shame that the HCZ plans ignore it. Zebra crossings are much safer than courtesy crossings.

“If you take out zebra crossings and plan in three or four courtesy crossings that is going to slow down traffic and it will increase traffic congestion which is already a huge problem.”

This week James Sullivan-Tailyour, who runs the Swan Hotel on Church Street, which would be included in phase one, called on people to vote Yes, saying: “We as businesses have taken the risks of setting up and running our businesses in this town so we will be affected, yet we can’t vote because we live outside the boundary.

"The town sits on an A road so there will always be traffic, however the HCZ will let everyone know that all types of traffic, be it motorised, bicycles or on foot, is welcome in the town centre and that they share the space.”

Nick Davies, who runs the Old Post Office in the Shambles, shares the concerns of many over pedestrian safety, which he feels is a paramount issue.

However he added: “I constantly have to wait five minutes to cross the road to get to Budgens and these plans will change that. The whole town will look a lot nicer and it will be a lot easier to move around.”

Critics of the HCZ believe the council’s money could be better spent elsewhere.

James Vincent, co-owner of J Alex Brown on Silver Street, said: “If money is available, then it would be better spent on the safety of pedestrians by prioritising other things like lorries coming over the bridge and mounting the pavement.”

The result of the Town Poll is expected to be announced next Friday morning.