AS PREPARATIONS begin to reopen Shaftesbury businesses as early as June 1, proposals have been put forward for the temporary pedestrianisation of the town’s High Street.

Shaftesbury and District Chamber of Commerce is suggesting this area be void of cars as the national lockdown continues, in order to “give shoppers confidence and make them feel safe”.

Virginia Edwyn-Jones, chairman of the chamber, said that Shaftesbury is known for being a hilltop town with a “very specific layout” and “narrow paths”, which sometimes causes shoppers to walk in the road to overtake others.

She said: “In some parts of the High Street it just isn’t possible to have free flowing traffic, it was more difficult in the height of lockdown, adding more pedestrians to this who are trying to social distance just wouldn’t be safe. We shouldn’t force people onto a road to keep two metres apart.

“We should be actively looking at being imaginative in opening the High Street while ensuring safety.”

The High Street’s pedestrianisation would potentially cover the area from The Grosvenor Arms to Angel Lane.

Calls for the pedestrianised area have so far been discussed with Shaftesbury Town Council, Highways England and businesses in the High Street.

Virginia added: “The response from businesses is very 50/50, some are completely for [pedestrianisation] and others are horrified at the idea.

“What we need to remember is this is a Covid-19 response situation, we are literally adapting to that and government directives, and how we can support businesses and shoppers.”

As well as becoming a car-free zone, the chamber has suggested further safety measures could be put in place to make shoppers feel safe, including accessible face covers.

Describing the coronavirus pandemic as “surreal”, Virginia added: “It is really difficult to grasp the severity of the situation - some people are just cracking on whereas others are terrified to come anywhere near the High Street.

“We just have to be cautious and alert, people must know we have their safety at heart.”

The chamber would like to see the temporary measures implemented in time for businesses reopening their doors, but ongoing discussions with partners and authorities means there is no decision nor date yet confirmed.

  • This story is part of the Journal's new publication, the Vale Journal, which covers Shaftesbury, Gillingham, and the wider Blackmore Vale. Got a story for us? Email or find us on Facebook.