THE long-awaited town centre enhancement works in Swanage are now complete following years of hard work.

Dorset Council and Swanage Town Council have been working together to develop a scheme for Institute Road that balances the needs of businesses, residents and visitors to the town.

The route has had long-running safety concerns as pedestrians frequently found themselves evading vehicles, which were mounting the pavement to manoeuvre round vehicles parked in the loading bay.

To prevent this from happening, work carried out by Dorset Highways has widened both pavements to give more space for shoppers, raised pavements on both sides of the road to full height and relocated loading bays to either end of Institute Road.

The pavements have also had new drainage channels installed to help manage rainwater run-off from shop guttering.

Improvements have also seen the pedestrian crossing on Station Road be upgraded to a puffin crossing and the traffic island in Shore Road has been rebuilt on a new alignment to help the flow of traffic pass the disabled parking bays.

Additionally, new crossing features have been introduced in Institute Road to highlight the pedestrian nature of the street to drivers.

Dorset Council elected member for Swanage, Councillor Gary Suttle said: "The works have greatly enhanced the town centre shopping experience for pedestrians and I’m sure residents and visitors will now feel safer using this busy route. I’d like to thank the project team on site for working so hard to get this finished in time for the reopening of our high street, enabling us to shop locally and help support businesses here in town."

Swanage Town Mayor, Councillor Mike Bonfield added: "Considering the unprecedented situation we have all found ourselves in over the past three months, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Dorset Highways and the team of workers who have managed to complete the works within a couple of weeks of the originally planned completion date.

"As our shops and businesses gradually open up again, and visitor numbers begin to increase, the new wider pavements will ensure that members of the public will be able to maintain social distancing when visiting our town centre."

Improvements to the centre also include the replacement of concrete paving slabs with an imprinting with the same paved effect.

This imprinting technique – new to the Dorset Council area – reduces trip hazards compared to traditional slabs, while keeping the look and feel of the town’s environment.

Work in Swanage town centre started in January 2020 but was paused on March 23 following the lockdown.

Work resumed on May 4 following updated guidance for construction activity from the Department for Transport.

The £450k project has been funded by Dorset Council, Swanage Town Council and Section 106 monies from developers.