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180 new social distancing measures across Bromley endorsed

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Bromley chiefs will push ahead with a progressive package of 180 measures to safely reopen businesses and encourage increased cycling and walking throughout the borough, but have ruled out introducing 20 miles per hour speed limits for vehicles on high streets for now.

Members of the environment and community scrutiny committee endorsed the moves at a special meeting on Monday, which will see the authority lobby for more than £1m in funding to help implement measures including new cycleways and wider footpaths in a post-lockdown world.

It’ll see them vie for a slice of Transport for London’s £45 million Streetspace funding package plan – with Bromley gunning for more than £1m for work on high streets, footpaths and busy streets across the borough.

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The authority will also proceed with plans to use £100,000 supplied by the Department of Transport for “quick-win” schemes to get the borough moving, while £295,000 from the communities and local government office will be used to help local businesses reopen later this month.

The current report wasn’t meant to be “an exhaustive list” of measures which will be taken, councillors were told at the virtual meeting – with members reminded actions to improve cycling and footfall in the borough would continue “to evolve and develop” post-lockdown.

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While the list of proposals stretched to all corners of the borough, the first meeting in public on the topic saw councillors add their own thoughts on what actions could be taken.

Cllr Ian Dunn (Clock House, Labour) was one who mentioned there were no plans to introduce 20 mph limits on high streets in the borough, even though many are likely to be impacted by widened footpaths and increased pedestrian traffic.

“With our high streets having more people in them and more people spaced out, it’d be really good if the default is (us) implementing 20mph limits there,” he said.

Cllr William Huntington-Thresher (Orpington, Conservative), the portfolio holder for environment and community, said implementing a mass change in speed limits would come at a “significant cost”, and said existing speed limits already weren’t being obeyed.

Copers Cope ward member Michael Tickner agreed – accusing Cllr Dunn of “posturing” and saying he  “seems to be obsessed with an inner-London style blanket 20mph” limit – adding there was “no evidence” a lower limit significantly reduces accidents.

Cllr Tickner also said “no one enforces them at all” regarding current limits, and said dropping them would lead to “increased pollution when everyone drags along at 20mph”.

Other measures which were explored included the concept of Play Streets, where temporary road closures could be enacted to allow children space to play for a few hours in parts of the borough without easy access to green spaces.

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Cllr Simon Jeal (Penge and Cator, Labour) asked if there was potential to fund a clear process to enable the initiative “on roads where residents are supportive”, but Cllr Huntington-Thresher said it wasn’t a priority among the host of other measures being implemented.

Chair of the committee, Bromley Town’s Will Harmer, said members had an important role now to convey the community’s thoughts on the plans, saying it was “where councillors earn our money”.

He acknowledged “some of the schemes I’ve heard come forward are positive for some residents and negative for others”, and implored fellow members to engage with communitty groups and listen to social media for suggestions.

He also clarified that successful measures could potentially be set up permanently if they were popular enough.

Likewise, unpopular or unsuccessful schemes could be tossed out if they weren’t working.

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