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Newbury town centre to become traffic free 24 hours a day to help pedestrians follow social distancing guidelines

West Berkshire Council introduce order in response to coronavirus pandemic

TRAFFIC will be banned from Newbury town centre for 24 hours a day to make it easier for pedestrians to follow social distancing guidelines.

The temporary traffic order, which comes into effect on June 1 and could last until September, will prevent vehicles from driving down Northbrook Street and Market Place to enable people to spread out and safely stay two metres apart.

The two streets are currently closed to traffic from 10am to 5pm anyway, but West Berkshire Council will extend the ban to cover the whole day.

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen), revealed the news while taking questions from members of the public during a Facebook Live session on Saturday.

Newbury Town Council has also voiced its support for the proposals – and has even gone a step further by encouraging the district council to make it a permanent feature.

In a motion put forward by deputy leader Olivia Lewis, which is due to be discussed on Wednesday evening, it says: “We have a chance to trial new ways of travelling and using the space within Newbury town whilst traffic is much less busy, both to ensure the ongoing feasibility of maintaining social distancing whilst out of the house and helping local residents to reduce their carbon footprint whilst maintaining a healthier lifestyle."

It adds: “This council therefore supports West Berkshire Council in a proposed plan to pedestrianise areas within the town centre until September.

“This would allow for the main body of Market Square to be used both to assist social distancing at the weekly and monthly markets, but also to offer local pubs, cafés and restaurants space for outdoor seating as they begin to reopen on a take-away basis requiring social distancing.

“Temporary covers could be erected if useful to protect visitors from the elements. In addition, this plan would allow more space for cyclists and pedestrians to safely make short journeys without using the car.”

West Berkshire Green party chairwoman Carolyne Culver said she was “delighted” by the news.

She said she had previously asked the council’s executive member for transport whether a ban could be enforced “so that pedestrians and cyclists can safely socially distance without being pushed to the edges of the street in the mornings and evenings”.

She added: “We hope that if this proves successful it can become a permanent feature. We also hope that the council will be able to make use of the Government’s ‘active travel fund’ to reallocate space on the roads for cyclists.”

Mrs Doherty said it had not yet been confirmed how much funding the council would receive.

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