SOME social distancing highway changes such as those scrapped in New Milton and Brockenhurst high streets have “not proved effective”, the deputy leader of Hampshire County Council has admitted.
Cllr Rob Humber was commenting after two sets of measures aimed at supporting social distancing during the pandemic were removed last month in the New Forest following complaints from traders about the impact on shoppers’ footfall.
The schemes were among about 40 across the county to have received hundreds of thousands of pounds in government funding since June for new temporary footpath and cycleway measures.
The initiatives are aimed at both supporting the local economy and protecting public health following the government-imposed lockdown.
Another project currently in design is the creation of a new safe route for walking and cycling in Long Lane, Holbury.
Although claiming a “vast majority” of the measures put in place had been welcomed and were well used, Cllr Humby acknowledged not everyone would be happy.
He said: “With one or two schemes we have also found that they have not proved effective in practice, and we have therefore taken them out again.
“Where a scheme is being proposed locally which has divided opinion, or where there may be technical questions that it will work in practice, the only way to resolve such differences of opinion may be to trial it temporarily to find out.
“In such circumstances, we keep schemes under continual review, and initially only use temporary materials that can be removed and re-used elsewhere as quickly as they were put in.”
A first tranche of £863,000 came from the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Scheme, and HCC has applied for a further £3.45m to continue the works.
The outcome of this bid is expected in the autumn.
Cllr Humby, who is also HCC cabinet member for economy, transport and environment, said: “In just a few weeks, our teams have installed a significant number of temporary transport ‘pop-ups’ across the county, using road space differently to allow people to walk and cycle at a safe social distance, giving them confidence to return to the high street; and there are more underway leading up to the return to school in September.
“We have had a great deal of public interest in this initiative and many ideas for schemes have been suggested.
“We are working through these as quickly as we can with the resources and capacity we have available.”