Hertfordshire County Council is working collaboratively with Public Health and its district and borough councils, to identify how and where it may need to make temporary changes to its roads and footpaths, to better support social distancing. 

The county council will initially focus on main shopping areas, such as town centres, where increases in people visiting shops, as the lockdown restrictions gradually ease over the coming months, is likely to be high. The temporary measure is intended to help support public health measures, by encouraging people to use high street shops and public places in a safe way. It will be a phased approach, led by public health guidance, as the county council observes the results of the easing of government restrictions.

While many of our towns are able to operate within safe limits, we have identified 16 locations across the county where the existing layouts would present a challenge to social distancing as people return and the measures shops and businesses put in place are likely to require more space on footpaths. These locations include St Albans, Hitchin, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertford and Watford.

Hertfordshire County Council is currently drawing up plans in close co-operation with the districts and boroughs to identify what safety measures may be necessary and viable, such as closing the road off to traffic, removing parking or narrowing of roads to create more pedestrian and cycle space. Considerations will also be given to the need for access to public transport, emergency services, deliveries and accessibility for the disabled.

Together, the county council and the district and borough councils will ensure the proposals being developed are suitable and adaptable for local requirements, while providing the public health benefits needed, as these measures may be in place for some time.

Councillor Phil Bibby, Cabinet Member for Highways and Environment, said: “The safety and security of those who live and work in Hertfordshire is a top priority for us at Hertfordshire County Council. We are working closely with our public health partners to ensure we have the right measures in place  to allow people to safely go about their business in town centres and enable them to socially distance as they do so.

“This is a rapidly moving project and we aim to be in a position to start rolling out some of the measures within the next 10 days. While this project looks at the 16 locations identified, we are aware that there will be a range of other shopping locations where business owners may need to implement social distancing measures within their premises, which could impact on footpaths, and we may need to expand to other locations.”

Councillor Linda Haysey, Leader of East Herts Council and chair of the community reassurance cell of the Local Resilience Forum, said: “As we look to enter a new phase and get the economy moving again, we need to encourage greater footfall for our traders by creating spaces across Hertfordshire’s high streets and town centres that allow for social distancing and make residents, workers and shoppers feel safe.”

In addition, the county council is keeping a close eye on the wider road network as the use of public transport and the increase in walking and cycling may result in the need to adapt the wider network to support these sustainable modes.