BRADFORD on Avon is to consult residents on options for a one-way system after the temporary traffic order for the Covid-19 pandemic social distancing scheme ends in August.

The town’s mayor, Cllr Sarah Gibson, is calling for a full consultation over future plans to address traffic issues, air quality and pedestrian safety.

The social distancing scheme, involving a one-way system, was put in place for 12 months in August 2020 under a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order. Its purpose was to enable social distancing for people shopping in the town centre during the pandemic.

The scheme consists of widened footways with a one-way system northbound on Market Street, and southbound on Silver Street.

Initially, there were traffic signals on the Town Bridge, but these were later removed following scores of complaints from drivers about congestion and delays.

Wiltshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, Cllr Mark McClelland, said: “This temporary scheme was installed at short notice to encourage social distancing during the pandemic.

“However, as restrictions are likely to be further eased next month, the need for social distancing is expected to come to an end, and the rationale for a temporary scheme will no longer exist.

"We do not intend to rush into a decision on its removal but examine the data, consult local stakeholders, and then decide on next steps. We look forward to working with Bradford on Avon Town Council and the local Wiltshire Council members to determine a way forward.

"I have already discussed the one-way system at length with local MP, Michelle Donelan, and I am also eager to engage directly on the ground with local residents.

“As with all highway changes such as this, we have received a significant amount of correspondence from residents and businesses in the town, with passionate voices both for and against it.

“We also have a substantial body of data on traffic volumes, speeds and air quality from several roads in the town, and we have compared these against the baseline, pre-pandemic figures.

"We will be drawing on this evidence base in our discussions with local stakeholders to establish the best way forward, and we’ll update people with more information after these have taken place.”

Cllr Gibson said: “I welcome any willingness from Wiltshire Council to work with the town constructively on the way forward but we do not want to see a rushed consultation ahead of the August 17 expiry date. This could lead to an imposed long-term scheme which may not be in the best interests of the whole town.

“As a town council, we have announced a comprehensive consultation in the autumn looking at all options for the future and long-standing issues such as pedestrian safety and air quality.

"It is vital these issues, and the needs of residents living on roads that have experienced a large increase in traffic due to the temporary scheme, are properly addressed."

“Town and Wiltshire councillor, Tim Trimble and I have already asked Cllr McClelland to attend a site visit in the town and we hope this meeting will take place very soon.”

Cllr Gibson said there was “no justification” for keeping the TTRO after it ends unless the Government and Wiltshire Council extend social distancing schemes beyond that date.

She added: “A TTRO has a maximum possible duration of 18 months as long as the reasons that triggered it still apply.

“However, if the requirement to socially distance has been removed, an extension to the BoA TTRO will not be possible.

“This was a temporary scheme and there is not, and never has been, a means by which it could be automatically converted into a permanent arrangement. Any proposed permanent scheme must follow a separate process.

“Wiltshire Council, which is responsible for roads, is obliged to consult on a proposal, prepare designs and, if a project is agreed, undertake work to move drains, access to wiring, pipes and other underground equipment and services.

“This process would be likely to take around two years before work could commence.

“The town council is aware of a range of views on the temporary system and has agreed to lead its own consultation on options for the future in the autumn.

“This will enable us to inform Wiltshire Council of the wishes of the town so that, if necessary, it can develop a specific plan and proceed as described above.”

Miss Donelan recently called on the councils to consult residents before designing any plans to make the one-way system permanent.