Brentwood High Street may be closed to traffic on Sundays as part of active travel scheme

Details have been released of plans for sustainable cycle routes in towns across Essex, including a direct connection between the urban centres of Shenfield and Brentwood.

The High Street may also be closed to traffic on Sundays.

Earlier this month, Essex County Council (ECC) submitted an ambitious and transformational bid for funding from the Department for Transport to create safe walking and cycling routes in Wickford, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester, with the aim to reduce congestion and ensure towns and cities are “safer, greener and healthier”.

The Brentwood scheme involves a series of improvements along the A1023 Shenfield Road and Brentwood High Street.

The proposed route includes a permanent segregated cycling route on both sides of Shenfield Road.

At the junction with Crescent Drive a new crossing for both walking and cycling will be introduced.

There will also be a connection to an existing off-road cycle route along Chelmsford Road past Shenfield High School.

The eastern end of the corridor, towards Shenfield station, will be designated a Low Traffic Neighbourhood, where 20mph zones and complementary measures such as enhanced signs, extended footways and other traffic calming measures can be introduced.

It is also proposed that there will be designated ‘School Street’ zones, making them pedestrian and cycle only at the start and finish of each school day, either side of the route.

A possible one-way system along part of Sawyers Hall Lane is being suggested to provide greater space for school children to travel to and from school sustainably, while at the same time facilitating social distancing.

Sawyers Hall Lane to the north and Middleton Hall Lane to the south, could be designated as School Street zones as they house clusters of schools.

The proposals build on recent experience gained from the Phase 1 emergency measures set up in several towns and cities across Essex in response to Covid-19.

As part of that a key section of Brentwood High Street was closed to most traffic in July to enable safer social distancing for people in the town centre.

The scheme ended on Friday, August 7.

But as further investigation is being undertaken along with a submission for Department for Transport Emergency Active Travel funding, the potential closure of Brentwood High Street on Sundays is also being looked at.

ECC says the Phase 2 proposals act as a blueprint for all future aspirations, “delivering stepchange in active travel”.

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader of Essex County Council and Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, said: “Working in partnership with local councils, we evaluated nearly 20 proposals against DfT criteria and the strongest five have been shortlisted and included in one overall bid. We have identified a transformative set of active travel schemes that we want to take forward in partnership.

“We believe these proposals meet the government requirement to put forward schemes that could be transformative for residents. We want the schemes to encourage people to rethink how they make their local journeys in safer, greener, and healthier ways, whether on foot or by bike, instead of opting for the car.

“Travel choice remains critical, but we want to ensure there are real options for the people of Essex, made easier by great infrastructure and cycle and walking-friendly routes, to help not only themselves and their families, but our communities and our environment.”

The schemes submitted are required by DfT to reallocate road space to active travel measures such as cycling and walking to ensure better access to town centres, places of employment and other key areas.

Over the longer-term, the intention is to improve public health and reduce congestion and pollution, by providing more opportunity to use more sustainable forms of travel where possible.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter