Coronavirus: £15m fund to help towns meet social distancing rules

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image copyrightCardiff council
image captionThe Hayes is one of the areas which will be redesigned under plans to "re-open" Cardiff

A £15.5m fund is to help create more space for people to move about in towns and cities in Wales under social-distancing restrictions.

With retailers set to reopen on Monday, many popular public spaces such as town centres, community areas and green spaces are to be redesigned.

Among the measures are widening pavements, creating more cycle space and improving public transport routes.

The Welsh Government fund will also put £2m to making school journeys safer.

Projects in Anglesey, Blaenau Gwent, Carmarthenshire, Cardiff, Conwy, Rhyl and Swansea have already been ear-marked to be completed within the next four months.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionRetailers, like these shops in Caerphilly, have been given time to prepare to reopen

The Welsh Government said the Transforming Towns fund aimed to build on the rise in people walking and cycling during lockdown and make "a real difference" to how people get around their local area.

"During this lockdown we have seen a real change in people's behaviours, with more and more of us choosing to walk and cycle for necessary journeys," said Deputy Economy and Transport Minister Lee Waters.

"When we have been able to get out of the house it has been great to enjoy the cleaner air and quieter streets.

"But it's clear we've got to take action now to lock-in many of those changed behaviours by making a positive choice to reallocate road space and to give it over to better active travel infrastructure."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMore space is to be handed over to pedestrians and cyclists

With schools due to reopen on 29 June, money is being allocated to help maintain social distancing at the school gates.

So far the areas ear-marked are:

  • 15 neighbourhood shopping sites in Cardiff
  • Bus stops to be improved on Anglesey
  • Signage will be made clearer in Blaenau Gwent
  • Footways will be upgraded and road space reallocated for cyclists in Carmarthenshire
  • Conwy has plans to alleviate a pinch point on Conwy Bridge
  • Rhyl will suspend some on-street parking and provide traffic-free routes within the town
  • Swansea will provide city centre bicycle parking, park & cycle at Landore and park & ride on Fabian Way
image captionCones have been placed along Wellfield Road to provide room for people to queue for the shops

A pilot scheme for socially-distanced shopping has already started on Cardiff's Wellfield Road where parking bays have been cordoned off to make wider pavements so shoppers can queue safely outside stores.

Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for housing and local government, said Wales had a "unique opportunity to re-think and re-design" public spaces and town centres to help them become more "user-friendly and sustainable".

"There is no denying the pandemic has been a difficult time for businesses but it has also given us an opportunity to re-imagine how we design busy areas," she said.

"I hope the changes will enhance the public realm and experience of our high streets and public spaces - part of our long-term plan to transform towns in Wales. To ensure they don't just survive but that they thrive long into the future."

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