[P]lans for the refurbishment of Alston’s iconic Front Street are moving forward, with a local steering group helping to represent the community and shape the vision for the works.
The steep cobbled road with its iconic market cross is one of the most recognisable features of the town. To take forward plans for its refurbishment Cumbria County Council has established a dedicated project team. The team will work closely with a local steering group led by local county councillor Claire Driver and include representatives from the parish council, business, farming, bus operators and the Alston Moor Partnership.
The first task for the new team will be a worldwide search for the right sort of material to use that reflects the heritage of Front Street, can deal with the gradient, the volume of traffic and provide a long term solution; a funding package then has to be put together to deliver the scheme within the significant constraints of the site.
A firm timescale for the plan has not yet been agreed and it is likely that temporary repairs will have to be made in the meantime as the condition of the road deteriorates. These will cause local disruption but every effort will be made to minimise this.
Cllr Claire Driver, Local Member for Alston, said: “I can appreciate that people may think that nothing has been happening, but a huge amount of work has been going on behind the scenes. As well as being a major part of the road infrastructure of the county and a major route between the Lake District and the North East, Front Street with its cobbles is the centre of our community and a key part of what draws tourists here and makes those travelling through actually stop.
“All parties recognise that this project is more than a simple engineering job, and are committed to preserving the heritage of the town and its ‘sense of place’. We are putting in the resources to get this right and it will take time.
“When work does start, Alston town must stay open for business and the steering group is looking at ways of making this happen. We are also thinking about how we can make use of what will be, in effect, a pedestrianised area – markets, street theatre, historical events, exhibitions, pop-up shops are all options. We will be working with other bodies to promote and market the town while the work is going on. I’d welcome people sending me their ideas for events to me via the steering group.”