Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has been forced to lobby against his anti-car policy in his own constituency after barriers meant to aid social distancing turned a village high street into a “ghost town”.
Shopkeepers in Welwyn say businesses already struggling after the lockdown could be forced to close because visitor numbers plummeted when roads were transformed and a one-way system was introduced.
More than 1,300 people have signed a petition calling on Hertfordshire County Council to use “common sense” after the measures deterred shoppers and created “another dead high street in the country”.
The restrictions were introduced in May as part of the Transport Secretary’s “new era for cycling and walking”, announced at a Downing Street coronavirus briefing at height of the lockdown (see video below).
Mr Shapps invited local authorities to bid for £250 million of emergency funding to introduce greener traffic measures to relieve pressure on public transport during the pandemic.
But an email from his parliamentary office, seen by The Telegraph, reveals how, just weeks later, he contacted the council to complain that the one-way system and barriers were “not suited to the old layout of Welwyn”, a village already suffering low visitor numbers.
It adds the barriers, meant to allow pedestrians to stay two metres apart, seemed an over-reaction because they were “outside, so have reduced transmission risks” and the two-metre rule was being reviewed by the Government.
Mr Shapps’ scheme, intended to create a “cycling revolution”, has met widespread opposition as councils introduce road closures, new cycle lanes and wider pavements, often without public consultation.
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