Brentwood High Street pedestrianisation scheme to end after outcry from traders

A scheme to pedestrianise Brentwood High Street will end shortly after concerns from businesses over the impact on trade.

Brentwood had been included in a number of towns across Essex that had been party pedestrianised to encourage people back by allowing easier social distancing.

Since Saturday, July 4, only buses, cyclists and emergency vehicles have been allowed to travel down the High Street between Ingrave Road and Kings Road.

It was thanks to Essex County Council’s allocation of nearly £10million from the government to create safer high streets and shopping areas in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, businesses have said removing traffic has harmed footfall.

Martin Bristow from home and garden shop Tides said his concerns echoed others up and down the High Street.

“No one walks up and down the street on the road,” he said.

“If cogs are turning don’t change it. If it is to get funding it is going to ruin the High Street just to get funding.

“We were steady when we came back. But since the pedestrianisation it has just dropped.

“The changes have completely changed the flow of people.”

Cllr Lesley Wagland, who has been chairing a panel monitoring the impact of the High Street changes, confirmed the current scheme will stop shortly and the plans would be for the town to move towards ways to enable “accessibility particularly for cycling and walking to and around the town centre”.

No decisions have been made, but a number of options are being discussed with a view to form part of a bid for funding for any changes.

She said: “Both Essex County Council and Brentwood Borough Council are paying attention to all your views, we want to help and we are doing everything we can to give the public confidence to shop in Brentwood town centre.

“High street footfall is a national issue, not just confined to Brentwood, with today’s Office of National Statistics data across the UK showing just 60% of the number of people coming to our high streets as there were this time last year.

“I’m very grateful for the regular communication we have had with the High Street community and at the latest meeting of the monitoring board we have concluded that the core steps taken under the Government’s temporary measures have served their immediate purpose and should be reduced.

“We will now be moving towards future, longer-term measures in the wider area to help accessibility particularly for cycling and walking to and around the town centre.

“No decisions have been made, but a number of options are being discussed with a view to form part of a bid for funding for any changes.”

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “Essex County Council and Brentwood Borough Council worked with businesses and local residents to introduce measures on Brentwood High Street to encourage more shoppers to return as soon as Government rules and guidance permitted and with room to socially distance safely.

“A monitoring board was set up by Essex County Council which included county councillors and Brentwood borough councillors.

“This board, chaired by Cllr Lesley Wagland, has since met weekly to assess how these measures were working, taking into account the views of local shops, businesses residents and shoppers.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter