LOWER speed limits have been introduced in Maldon town centre in an effort to improve pedestrian safety and reduce the reliance on cars.

Maldon and Essex County councils introduced the 20mph speed limits today (Tuesday, June 23) as part of their response to the coronavirus crisis.

Bosses say the lower limits have been enforced on an interim basis to keep pedestrians safe when social distancing.

They hope the changes will encourage residents to return to the town centre and boost trade.

Maldon Council leader Adrian Fluker said: “Helping our High Street businesses to reopen safely has been a key focus for us.

“I am delighted that we have been able to work with Essex County Council to implement a number of measures to enable High Street to be a safer and greener place for visitors and businesses alike and we are ambitious to do even more.”

Maldon joins a number of other Essex town centres which have undergone temporary changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The schemes are being driven by immediate public health requirements such as social distancing, but council bosses also hope it will encourage shoppers to take up healthier means of transport, such as cycling and walking.

Essex County Council’s Dr Mike Gogarty said: “Providing a good environment for the public to practice safe social distancing remains a core part of the measures we need to limit the spread of coronavirus. Helping people to social distance in traditionally busy urban areas will help immediate public safety; it will also make it easier as businesses resume trading.

“Walking and cycling are healthy activities in their own right, they can help to lessen traffic congestion and consequently improve air quality, so these new measures are very supportive of societal demand.”

The project is funded by part of the initial £1.9m Emergency Active Travel Fund for Essex announced by the government for such schemes.

Council bosses say the changes will be monitored to check their ‘effectiveness’ and further measures are being considered for Maldon town centre.

Roads affected include Fullbridge, from its junction with Market Hill to a point close to Mill Lane. Baker Mews, Bull Lane, Cromwell Lane, Edwards Bright Close, Market Hill, High Street, Mill Lane, Old Mill Close, Saxon Counrt and Tait Mews also have 20mph limits in place.