OXFORD City Council will spend £234,000 to start work on redesigning road space and other measures to enable pedestrians and cyclists to safely maintain social distances once shops reopen.

The intention is that this is just the first tranche of funding for a programme of works to safely reopen shopping areas, particularly Oxford city centre.

The work is being jointly developed by the city council and Oxfordshire County Council.

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The Government announced a £250m fund nationally to support projects to encourage safe pedestrian and cycle movement in cities, and the expectation is that Oxford will benefit from a share of this pot in the coming weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday (25/5) that the Government will allow all non-essential shops to reopen on Monday 15 June – providing they implement measures to meet social distancing and hygiene standards.

Oxford Mail:

The PM also told people to avoid public transport where possible, and instead encouraged them to walk or cycle, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Guided by these announcements, the city council and county council have been working together on a series of changes to Oxford city centre and other shopping areas in Oxford to support businesses to reopen safely.

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The changes are focussed on helping pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distancing while travelling into and around the city centre – and, at the same time, ensuring the proposals do not make it harder for disabled people to access the shopping areas.

The aim is to support businesses to reopen by ensuring the streets around their premises are as safe as possible. The City Council will also share central Government guidance and advice with business owners on how to reopen safely.

The city council has now allocated £100,000 of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding to make the emergency changes to support more people to walk and cycle, and has been provided with a further £134,000 of Government funding.

Oxford Mail:

The £134,000 is part of a £50m fund for councils across England to prepare for the safe reopening of high streets and other retail spaces, which the Government announced on Sunday (24/5).

The city council is working with the county council, the transport authority for Oxford, on securing agreement to the first phase of the works this week, but it is likely that the funding will be used to widen pavements and bike lanes, install new bicycle parking, and support businesses to reopen.

A series of conversations with businesses and key stakeholders – both to inform them of the proposals and get their thoughts on them – has already started, and the city council plans further engagement over the coming days.

A ‘Talk of the Town’ meeting with city centre traders will take place this week.