COUNCILLORS have pedestrianised part of their town centre to help lift the coronavirus lockdown – and it could become permanent.

Wantage Town Council closed the west end of the Market Place to vehicles on Saturday using temporary road barriers and stanchion road signs.

The temporary measures mean that people can now sit out at tables and chairs in front of Marmalade cafe, 30 Something wine bar and The King Alfred’s Head pub, and it is set to last up to 18 months.

However, the council is already looking at whether the closure could be permanent – and whether it could close more of the town centre.

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Town clerk Bill Falkenau explained: "The area has been used many times for town events such as Wantage Brass and the Continental Day, and has tremendous potential for events and other uses.

"The long-term aim is to seek permanent pedestrianisation of this area.

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"The temporary closure provides a test of the obstacles and issues that may need to be overcome to accommodate this."

The new measures, which will last for at least a year, are set to encourage residents to return to the town centre while properly socially distancing.

The Government has tasked councils across England with implementing temporary measures to reopen their town centres and high streets as safely as possible, and to make them more attractive and welcoming for walkers and cyclists.

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However Wantage town councillor Caroline Wills-Wright, who has been working in the scheme, said that some businesses were worried about bigger closures.

The council had announced further plans to close the southern side of the Market Place from Sunday but this has now been postponed following backlash from taxi drivers, who would have been forced to relocate to Newbury Street, and residents concerned over the lack of parking spaces.

Ms Wills-Wright said that the council was still 'fine tuning these changes'.

She added: "We are listening to people worried about the closures – there has been a lot of positivity, but we are still taking feedback.

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"The town will see bigger closures in the near future and we will try to give people as much notice as possible.

"Currently, taxis can park at their normal location, so there is nothing to worry about and we are keeping in mind their concerns."

Other towns are also looking to follow suit and adapt high streets for pedestrians, however for some it is proving more difficult.

In Wallingford, town councillors had proposed closing both St Mary’s and St Martin’s streets in the town centre to vehicles and had been working with roads bosses at the county council.

However councillor Robert McGregor revealed that the the plan had to be postponed after it was decided the council had not done 'enough due diligence'.

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He said: "There was a motion tabled to do this but shops and retailers argued it would greatly hurt their trade.

"We are trying to find a compromise but we are not entirely sure on the impact it will have."

Abingdon Town Council, on the other hand, revealed a list of proposed measures to make the centre 'green', all of which were paused as Oxfordshire County Council lost out on half of a £600,000 grant from the Department of Transport to improve cycling and walking in the county.

Town councillor Samantha Bowring said that she and her colleagues were all 'extremely frustrated' about how the county authority 'messed around'.

She added: "We wanted to create a safe space for cyclists and pedestrians, so it is really a shame that we missed out on this opportunity.

"We will continue to lobby the county council to make Abingdon greener and we will apply for further rounds of funding to achieve this."

The county authority is currently making a bid for a second larger pot of money from the Department of Transport worth £2.3m.