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Springtime trial in banning cars from Newbury town centre during evenings likely

A trial banning motor vehicles from Newbury town centre into the evening could start in May this year, West Berkshire Council has announced.

In a meeting before Christmas, the council voted to forge ahead with plans to extend the timings of the pedestrianised zone – which includes Northbrook Street (pictured), Bridge Street, Bartholomew Street (north), Mansion House Street, and Market Place – from 10am until 11pm. The zone is currently pedestrianised until 5pm.

The council says the move would make the town centre more attractive to shoppers, workers, and visitors by boosting the day and night-time economy through café culture ambience and alfresco evening dining.

The scheme would also reduce air pollution.

The six-month trial would give the council the opportunity to assess the impact on the town and also to engage with residents, businesses, and stakeholders for their views on the changes through a consultation.

The proposal was initially put forward in the summer but faced a temporary delay due to essential road works and ongoing discussions with the Department for Transport.

A new application has now been lodged with the DfT for an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order.

Councillor Denise Gaines, executive member for highways, housing and sustainable travel, said: “Making the town centre vehicle-free for a longer period would be beneficial to the vibrancy and feel of the town with more ‘spill-out’ space for cafés and restaurants and flexibility for larger events and markets, responding to new social and shopping trends.

“We are in the process of writing to the Secretary of State and optimistic that, subject to the DfT successfully agreeing the ETRO, the trial could begin as early as May 2024 – just in time for us all to enjoy the better weather!

“Importantly, this trial is not just about change; it’s about experiencing a reimagined Newbury town centre.

“Residents and businesses are invited to try out the new arrangements first for a few months before providing invaluable feedback for a trial that could reshape the heart of our community.”