A major new package of funding has been announced by Welsh Government to create more space for people to travel under social distancing restrictions. Councils will get investment for schemes that widen pavements and create more space for cyclists to embed those new habits for the long-term.
The £15.4 million move is part of Welsh Government’s radical new ‘Transforming Towns’ approach by making it safer and easier for people to get around their local towns.
The funding will also be used to help buses move around towns easier to promote public transport when the lockdown eases.
Today’s funding is accompanied by new guidance which can help those responsible for public spaces re-design areas with high footfall such as town centres, community areas and green spaces.
Deputy Minister Lee Waters said:
During this lockdown we have seen a real change in people’s behaviours, with more and more of us choosing to walk and cycle for necessary journeys. When we have been able to get out of the house it has been great to enjoy the cleaner air and quieter streets. But it’s clear we’ve got to take action now to lock-in for the long-term many of those changed behaviours we have seen by making a positive choice to reallocate road space in our town centres and in our communities and to give it over to better active travel infrastructure.
It was encouraging to receive more than 200 proposals and to see so much enthusiasm for the wider work the Welsh Government is doing to re-think our town centres and public squares for the future.
We asked local authorities to prioritise those schemes which can be delivered within the next three to four months and which can have the greatest impact in their local area – hopefully making a real difference to how people see and get around their local area. Today is hopefully the start of our long-term project to enhance our town centres and public areas.
£2 million of the funding is specifically for schemes around schools. With children starting to return to classrooms in the next few weeks, it is important to enable safe walking and cycling journeys and maintain social distance at the school gates.
Up to 15 locations in Cardiff will benefit from district and local centre footway, social distancing and public realm improvements.
In Swansea, there will be secure city centre bicycle parking and a Park and Cycle Initiative at Landore, plus Park and Ride sites in Fabian Way.
Blaenau Gwent has asked for the funds to help them declutter and consolidate their signage.
Conwy has plans to alleviate a pinch point on Conwy Bridge.
The Isle of Angelsey will be using the money for bus stop improvements and social distancing measures at main bus stops.
In Carmarthenshire, footways will be upgraded, routes better signposted and road space reallocated so cyclists and pedestrians’ safer social distancing.
Rhyl town centre will see suspension of sections of on-street parking for safer walking and cycling, also providing traffic-free routes within the town.
Local authorities will be expected to monitor the impact of their measures, and make adjustments if necessary.
The new ‘Safer Public Spaces’ guidance provides information on, and examples of, temporary interventions that could be undertaken by the owners and operators of public spaces to keep people safe as and when restrictions are relaxed and urban spaces become busier.
These include active travel measures, along with consideration of pedestrian movement; queues; traffic management; the use of outdoor space by the hospitality industry; and hygiene measures.
Hannah Blythyn said:
As we plan to reopen our public spaces and town centres, we have a unique opportunity to re-think and to re-design the way they operate for the future. This investment in active travel along with the new guidance can help to inject new energy into our town centres by making them safer and more attractive places for people to visit and get around, so increasing footfall and trade for business.
This guidance will help those responsible for public spaces think creatively about not just re-opening them after Covid, but to think about the long-term and to make them more user-friendly and sustainable for the future as part of our ‘Transforming Towns’ approach.
There is no denying the pandemic has been a difficult time for businesses but it has also given us an opportunity to re-imagine how we design busy areas. I hope the changes made will enhance the public realm and experience of our high streets and public spaces - part of our long-term plan to transform towns in Wales. To ensure they don’t just survive but that they thrive long into the future.