Councillor raises concerns about removal of social distancing barriers

Kieran Bell and Adrian Williams

Controversial Royal Borough active travel measures to be removed

A councillor has raised concerns about the removal of the social distancing barriers in the town centre.

Schemes to aid social distancing included pavement widening in Queen Street, Broadway and York Road in Maidenhead and Thames Street, High Street, Datchet Road, River Street and Thames Avenue in Windsor.

The measures formed part of the Government's active travel initiative, which aims to provide cash to councils to promote sustainable methods of transport in their areas. 

March 18:

At a council meeting on Thursday,  Cllr Gurch Singh (Lib Dem, St Mary’s) said:

“Hospitals have been completely overwhelmed with COVID cases, there are very high cases,” he said. “Is this the right time to remove protective measures?”

Cllr Phil Haseler, lead member for planning, parking, highways and transport, said: “I don’t think we should be alarmist about the NHS.

“The bollards haven’t in been in position for months – they’re not out in the road, as they were, they have been pushed to the side.

“It is clutter – nothing but a complete and utter mess. In my view they are serving no purpose. Everybody is in agreement and happy for them to be removed.”

March 17

In an announcement today (Thursday), the Royal Borough said that some of its schemes are to be lifted - with measures that are 'no longer deemed required' removed.

Schemes to aid social distancing included pavement widening in Queen Street, Broadway and York Road in Maidenhead and Thames Street, High Street, Datchet Road, River Street and Thames Avenue in Windsor.

They were installed by the council at the end of the first lockdown in spring 2020 as more people returned to town centres.

These will be removed over the 'coming weeks', the council said. 

It comes after parking manager Neil Walter told a meeting in November that the measures were due to be removed in time for Christmas last year. 

The schemes were not popular with some local business owners, with one hair salon calling them 'a mess'. 

Measures being retained include changes to the speed limits in Windsor and Maidenhead from 30mph to 20mph, which will become permanent.

Cycle parking in both town centres will also be retained, along with cycle lanes in Maidenhead High Street.

The Royal Borough said that its high streets are 'continuing to recover' following the easing of restrictions, with visitors for the year to the end of February 2022 up 146 per cent in Maidenhead, compared to the previous year.

In Windsor, there was a 116.2 per cent increase for the same period.

Councillor Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green), the council's cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “This work was funded by the Government to set up temporary measures to create a safer environment for walking and cycling in congested areas, and where social distancing required changes to local infrastructure.

“This enabled people to walk and cycle while maintaining the recommended distance to limit the spread of the virus, thereby support the safe reopening of our town centres.

"Following a review after the lifting of restrictions nationally, and with town centres now successfully re-opened, those temporary measures that are no longer required will be removed.

“These were always intended as temporary measures, with a focus on social distancing. We remain committed to Active Travel in the borough through our Cycling Action Plan (CAP) 2018.

"Over the course of last summer, a ‘Big Conversation’ took place with residents across our borough to further develop our plans.

"This will be captured through a Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) which will review longer-term solutions for cycling and walking with local consultations helping us find the most appropriate solutions.”

The council says that it intends to adopt the LCWIP 'as soon as possible in the new financial year', creating a roadmap of schemes for further investigation and, following public consultation, implementation.

Its active travel plans took a hit earlier this year though, when the Department for Transport announced that the Royal Borough was the only local authority out of nearly 80 not to receive any cash from a funding pot.

The Capability Fund was announced in July 2021 to help councils outside of London champion active travel in their areas. 

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