SHOPPERS are being urged to ditch their cars and use other forms of transport in town centres.

Essex County Council has launched its Safer, Greener, Healthier scheme in Braintree in a bid to help people social distance, as well as reduce the reliance on cars.

New signs have been installed across the town centre to remind people to avoid close contact with others and where to queue outside shops.

Bosses say signs have been set up because barriers used in other town centres cannot be installed in Braintree due to the ongoing pedestrianisation works.

The measures in Braintree, like others planned across Essex, are driven by the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing rules.

But County Hall also hopes it will encourage people to find healthier and greener ways of getting around.

Dr Mike Gogarty, Director of Public Health, Essex County Council said: “Providing space 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 re-open.

“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.”

Essex County Council says data on streets in the UK where the pedestrian experience has been improved shows footfall increasing up to 35 per cent.

This is also said to have led to a growth in trade.

County Hall says the new measures being introduced in Braintree will be under constant review and could be expanded in the future.

Infrastructure boss Kevin Bentley said: “We want to keep people safe from Covid-19 infection while they visit the shops and businesses in Braintree and this is how we are going to do it.

“While I recognise many people will still need to use their cars, this is a chance for all to think hard about driving for short journeys. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to greatly improve our air quality and our health as well as the life opportunities for the next generation.

“Braintree is among the first towns in Essex to get such a scheme, we’re using this money to help people confidently return to shop and work, as

lockdown measures continue to be carefully eased.”

Braintree Council’s economic boss Tom Cunningham added: “Supporting our town centres to re-open safely for both shoppers and businesses is a key focus for us right now. I would like to thank Essex County Council for putting up the new signage which will support our social distancing measures already in place in Braintree town centre.

“We’re keen for people to return to the town centre to visit and shop, and we remain committed to complete the pedestrianisation improvement works already underway, but it’s still so important to shop safely and responsibly – to keep following social distancing guidelines and respecting measures local businesses have put in place to protect the safety of their staff and shoppers.”