WINCHESTER is at the forefront of changes to transport sparked by coronavirus.

The county council is undertaking a series of measures in the wake of the sharp increase in cycling and walking and the decline in driving.

It says the temporary measures in Jewry Street and North Walls will help people to socially distance in the coming weeks by giving more room to pedestrians and cyclists in Winchester's narrow medieval streets.

Jewry Street will be narrowed for traffic on the wide section at the Discovery Centre. On North Walls one of the lanes will be removed to create more space.

Cllr Rob Humby, deputy leader and executive member for economy, transport and environment at the county council said: “Coronavirus has altered our views on how we live and how we travel. With more people cycling and walking, this is a critical time for us to decide how we want to move about in the future and seize the opportunities we have to shape a clean, healthy and sustainable transport future for Hampshire.

“We’ve already made some immediate changes across the county to traffic signals and signs, to give pedestrians more space and time. The next stage will be work on the ground to install physical measures which provide more space for safe social distancing.”

Some things have been introduced county-wide, such as decreased waiting times for pedestrians at 166 pelican, puffin and toucan crossings. Traffic signals have been altered at some of Hampshire’s busiest town centre traffic signal junctions, increasing the frequency that the pedestrian stage appears, and the amount of green time provided to cross the road by foot.

Many electronic traffic information signs now inform motorists to slow down, share the road and look out for pedestrians and people on bikes.

Work starts this week on some of the first schemes including giving more space to pedestrians on the one-way system in Winchester, including Jewry Street and North Walls.

Further schemes are in development to support retail spaces which mean taking traffic and parking out of town centres to create space. These plans are being developed with Hampshire’s district and borough councils, Business Improvement Districts, town and parish councils, and other organisations who have expressed an interest.

Cllr Humby said: “We’ve been collecting ideas from the community to help us prioritise areas, and we’re in line for national funding of £863,000 which the Government has indicated we will receive on the strength of our proposals.

“This will enable us to get going on this first set of changes, and we plan to build on this by reviewing what’s working well and what we might need to change. We’re committed to continual engagement with the community on local priorities, and we have set up an online platform for organisations and people to make their suggestions, and see what others think. We will then be ready to bid for further national funding later in the summer and continue to help Hampshire’s residents make healthier and greener journeys as we support the economic recovery of our county.”

Communities, schools and residents are encouraged to make suggestions for schemes which support social distancing at: with priority given to those ideas with the potential to make the most positive impact and which meet Government criteria for funding.

Martin Tod, county councillor and Winchester City Council cabinet member for transport, said: "This is a good start, but it's only a start. I'm keen to see more and the city council has also offered to help the county council do more. Making it easier for people to safely socially distance in our city and towns is vital to helping our businesses reopen. I’d like the next round to have more measures to support safe cycling into our centres too.

Cllr Tod, who is involved with the City of Winchester Movement Strategy, as both a city and county councillor, said: "I'm pleased that Winchester is one of only three towns in Hampshire to be the first to have on street social distancing measures implemented - and will keep working hard to ensure that we get the further measures we need - not just in Winchester, but across the district and county as a whole. We won't get everything perfect first time and we need to be ambitious with future schemes. But the one thing we can't do is do nothing.

Dominic Hiscock - county councillor for the area affected by the measures said: "These changes will be better for people in the local area as well as people coming in to visit the City. To make the City be safe and feel safe, it has to be easy for residents and visitors to socially distance. But it can only be the beginning and I'm working to get more. We must continue to be ambitious in making our city and towns safe and business ready.