CARS will be banned from the high street of Newbury for 24 hours a day in a bid to help shoppers keep two metres apart.

A temporary traffic order will suspend traffic driving down Northbrook Street and Market Place to help pedestrians follow social distancing guidelines. 

The streets are currently shut to vehicles from 10am to 5pm, but West Berkshire Council will extend the ban to cover the whole day

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Councillor Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen), leader of the council, said: “We’re going to put in place a temporary traffic order to suspend traffic going down Newbury high street for 24 hours a day.

“It will be safer for people if there are no cars going down there, for people to be able to keep two metres distance.”

She announced the changes on Saturday, May 16, while taking questions from members of the public during a Facebook Live session. The council has not yet announced when the order will come into effect.

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The 24-hour car ban on Northbrook Street and Market Place was welcomed by Green councillors, who said they have been suggesting for this more than a month.

Cllr Carolyne Culver (Green, Ridgeway) said: “We hope that if this proves successful it can become a permanent feature. We also hope that the council will be able to make use of the government’s active travel fund to reallocate space on the roads for cyclists.”

As well as banning cars from the high street, the council is also exploring options on new cycle lanes and even electric scooters. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, recently announced the government will give councils £250 million in an emergency active travel fund.

The emergency fund is the first stage of a £2 billion investment in making it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle. It is so far unclear how much of the money West Berkshire will receive.

Cllr Doherty said: “We will be spending some of the active travel grant on cycle routes. But we don’t know how much we’re going to get yet.”

Electric scooters could soon become much more of a common sight too, after the Department of Transport brought forward new trials. The government is considering giving councils extra powers to manage the mass roll out of electric scooters.

Asked if West Berkshire is including electric scooters in its new plans, Cllr Doherty said: “I actually tested out an electric scooter — they’re great fun. It may be well be something we consider, and I’m not ruling it out.”

Announcing the active travel fund, Mr Shapps said: “We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.”