COUNCIL chiefs have U-turned on plans to close Wheelock Street for social distancing following concerns it would hurt businesses and affect residents.

Cheshire East Council was expected to close the road between the Bull Ring and Darlington Street by Monday, June 15, with signs at each end telling pedestrians to stay two metres apart.

The one-way system in Darlington Street was also set to be reversed under plans unveiled by CEC over the weekend to make the town centre safer when non-essential shops reopen next week.

But following pressure from Middlewich Town Council and residents to change the plans, it confirmed on Tuesday night that its discussions with CEC had been successful.

In a post on Facebook, the town council said: "We are pleased to say that following the hard work of Cllr [Jonathan] Parry and the town clerk since Friday and all the comments submitted by residents and businesses, CEC has agreed not to close Wheelock Street to enable the re-opening of the shops.

"Instead they have proposed the suspension of three parking bays to enable additional space for pedestrians to pass at a safe distance in likely queuing hotspots.

"The disabled bays and the majority of on street parking bays will still be maintained.

"Thank you for all the emails and comments received, which formed part of the report submitted and helped CEC understand the strength of feeling in the town about the issue."

The plans will see the suspension of parking bays in Wheelock Street from Fantastic Pizza to Willow Bell, outside Rowlands Pharmacy and from Indigo to Carrie-Ann Sudlow.

Disabled parking bays will be retained, along with most other parking bays on a time-limited basis.

Winsford Guardian:

How Wheelock Street will be prepared for social distancing

Following CEC's first plan to close Wheelock Street, Cllr Parry told the Guardian: "The businesses are at the forefront of my mind. They have had it so hard for a long time.

“They have been given a bit of light at the end of the tunnel and we want to make it as easy as possible for them to try and recoup some of their losses.

“We have got to do everything we can to make sure they can be ready to have as many customers as they can, but also keeping it safe for everyone.”

In a statement released last Friday, Cllr Laura Crane, CEC cabinet member for highways, said: “Each of the 16 high streets identified in Cheshire East has been considered individually and measures tailored to local circumstances.

“Local ward members and town and parish councils have been asked for input into the plans and, where this has been received, we have taken close account of these suggestions.

“We are being careful to implement the government’s measures alongside avoiding unnecessary disruption.

“The works completed by June 15 are an important first step and these measures will be closely monitored and adjusted as necessary.”

The council says it is also working on measures to support walking and cycling as lockdown is eased.