Wickford and Billericay high streets ‘to ban cars until next year’

Billericay High Street

Article by Matthew Critchell: Plans are being drawn up to pedestrianise high streets in both Wickford and Billericay as the UK lockdown restrictions are gradually relaxed.

Essex County Council and Basildon Council are in talks to ban vehicles from both streets until February next year. Bosses say the schemes would allow for people to go to both towns knowing there is enough space for the social distancing measures to be implemented.

The plans are part of longer-term ambitions to cut the use of cars in urban areas across the county - especially for shorter journeys.

Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council deputy leader and cabinet member for infrastructure, said:

“We welcome Basildon Council following our lead in considering plans that promote sustainable transport as the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted. This week we announced we are making temporary changes to the road network in Essex towns and cities in order to get the county moving again, safely. We are committed to making it as easy as possible for residents – especially those that are unable to work from home - to use sustainable transport, while adhering to appropriate social distancing measures. While we are investigating the potential pedestrianisation of the High Streets in Wickford and Billericay as part of this, it is important that we consider all of the implications carefully before determining whether such a measure would be both appropriate and practical to implement.”

Mr Bentley added:

“Our longer-term ambition is to maintain lower levels of private car use in urban areas, so that walking and cycling becomes the preferred choice for shorter journeys. We are one of the first county councils to take such bold steps and I look forward to working with all our district and borough colleagues to continue our work.”

Basildon Council leader Gavin Callaghan tweeted about the plans on Wednesday, posting:

“Today @BasildonCouncil has asked @Essex_CC to review arrangements for #Wickford and #Billericay High Streets when the lockdown is lifted. This would include a pedestrianisation of the high streets from 6am - 6pm, 7 days a week, until 1st February 2021.”

It comes as proposals are already being worked on to pedestrianise Wickford High Street in Saturdays in a bid to boost trade in the town’s market. The move has been welcomed by traders and community leaders.

However, bosses First Bus Essex have warned it could have a detrimental impact on the town’s trade.

Article by Matthew Critchell, The Echo