Road closures limit ‘disastrous’ local lockdown risk, council says

HEREFORDSHIRE Council has said it will continue to review road closures put in place in Leominster after criticism from local businesses.

Traders in the north Herefordshire town fear for the future if the closures, in place from 10am to 1pm each day, except Sundays, remain in place.

But Herefordshire Council’s transport chief argued the measures are needed to stop coronavirus spreading in communities.

READ MORE: Fears for future of town centre shops if road closures remain

In response to criticism from traders, councillor John Harrington, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, said the local authority needed to limit the risk of the virus spreading as a second wave or local lockdown would be “most disastrous” for businesses.

“We have a duty to provide safe spaces for people to move in and around the shopping areas of Leominster and we need people to feel relaxed when they come into our towns and to spend more time and money within our towns and city,” he said.

“It is important that we can adapt how we use space to support this. The measures are temporary and continue to be reviewed and can be adjusted if required.

“We are listening to traders who have said that these measures are causing them problems and we will do what we can to mitigate specific issues, balancing that against the views of traders who say we haven’t gone far enough and the need for us to do all we can to listen to the science and do provide safe spacing to prevent infection.

“A second wave or local lockdown would have the most disastrous effects on residents and traders.”

As part of the Government scheme to give more space to pedestrians and cyclists during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as ensuring sufficient space for social distancing, the changes came into force earlier this month.

Measures in other market towns do not include road closures, with Leominster and Hereford the only areas in the county to see these put in place.

“The government has asked local authorities to do what they can to provide safe streets for shoppers as we come out of lockdown,” It’s Our County’s John Harrington added.

“There is good science behind why we need to reconfigure street and road space to allow social distancing to take place. In Leominster that meant trying to find a solution to the very narrow pavements on High Street.

“Closing the road for three hours to allow shoppers to walk safely in the roadway was considered the best way to do this temporarily. This does have the effect of closing Corn Square to traffic from 11am-3pm. “

Coun Harrington said the temporary measures in Leominster were developed after discussions with the town council, local members, business groups and as many of the traders as possible.

“Following their feedback we revised our original proposals and town council and local members and business groups were advised,” he said.

“We also conducted letter drops to all businesses that would be directly affected to ensure they were informed before the measures were implemented. There was general support for the closures, with about twice as many in favour as objecting, with a further 20 per cent neither for nor against the measures.”

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Hereford Times