New Milton turned down for cash help over thousands spent on social distancing measures

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social distancing new milton
Social distancing signs on New Milton’s Station Road

NEW Milton councillors were left disappointed after being turned down for help footing the bill for thousands of pounds of town centre measures for social distancing.

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Signs and pavement markings, as well as controversial barriers marking out short-lived road closures along the high street, were among the work which cost New Milton taxpayers around £20,000.

The town council hoped to recoup up to £10,000 of this from both Hampshire County Council and New Forest District Council.

However, a recent online meeting of the full town council heard HCC had turned down the request.

The town council’s estates and facilities manager, Mark Jeffries, who oversaw much of the project, reacted: “We were given a very small window of opportunity to put into action what we did.

“There was a lot of effort and a lot of cost, so I’m disappointed we have not been reimbursed for some of it, if not all.”

Speaking to the A&T after the meeting, town clerk Graham Flexman explained HCC had received “extremely limited” government funding towards the introduction of Covid-secure measures county-wide. This was understood to have already been fully allocated to delivering priority schemes.

“We did not invoice HCC but sought their advice,” Mr Flexman said.

“Where authorities fund their own initiatives, HCC was able to support these by providing officer advice and technical support as well as waiving all licence fees.”

The town council is hopeful that it can still secure nearly £8,000, plus VAT, from NFDC through the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund.

NFDC is currently discussing this bid with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

As reported in the A&T, the town council incurred the £20,000 expenditure during May and June when it implemented measures authorised by HCC.

But the temporary road closures put in place on 28th June to help social distancing and relieve traffic congestion proved divisive.

Barriers blocking access to Osborne Road from Station Road were lifted after four weeks following complaints from several business owners that their trade was being damaged.

The other significant closure, at Station Road’s junction with Old Milton Road, allowing pedestrians to spill onto a lane of the highway from a narrow pavement, was removed within another month.

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