CAMPAIGNERS are urging councils to make the most of a "unique opportunity" to alter Winchester city centre and help residents and visitors to social distance during the coronavirus pandemic.

An online petition launched by Extinction Rebellion Winchester has been signed by close to 600 people calling Winchester City and Hampshire County councils to roll out a range of measures across the city to allow people to keep their distance.

Activists also hope that the changes will have a knock-on effect, helping to improve air quality and encourage people to walk and cycle.

James Miller, group co-ordinator, said: "The safety of pedestrians and cyclists must be the top priority in Winchester’s recovery from Covid-19. Winchester has some of the narrowest pavements in Hampshire. So, the only way to maintain two metre distancing is to reallocate roads to people, not cars.

"There’s a lot of research demonstrating that controlling cars leads to more people in shopping streets - higher footfall – so local traders would also benefit. In the longer term, these changes will also prevent the return of dangerous levels of pollution in our city, reduce CO2 emissions, and encourage people to exercise by walking and cycling.

Re-allocating one lane of traffic for use by pedestrians and cyclists on streets with the narrowest pavements, such as St George’s Street, North Walls, City Bridge, Stockbridge Road and Romsey Road; pedestrianising areas where many people walk, such as The Square, Jewry Street, and the upper part of High Street; rethinking key routes into the city centre, re-allocating space to pedestrians and cyclists on all approaches are just some of the measures being called for.

"Right now we have a unique opportunity, with the funds the government has made available, to transform the experience of central Winchester," James added.

"The Emergency Active Travel Fund has allocated £4.316m to Hampshire. It could make a big difference to the quality of life across the county, and the narrow streets and pollution in Winchester in particular. Added to this the £110,972 made available to Winchester through the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund could be spent on social distancing measures on shopping streets."

The petition has also been backed by other organisations, with the number of signatures continuing to grow steadily.

Now Hampshire County Council has said that more space will be given over to pedestrians on the one way system in Winchester including Jewry Street and North Walls.

The authority has also altered traffic signals at some of Hampshire’s busiest town centre junctions, increasing the frequency that the pedestrian stage appears, and the amount of green time provided to cross the road by foot.

As well as national messages to Stay Alert and maintain social distancing, many electronic traffic information signs now inform motorists to slow down, share the road and look out for pedestrians and people on bikes

Cllr Rob Humby, deputy leader and executive member for economy, transport and environment, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has altered our views on how we live and how we travel.  With more people cycling and walking, this is a critical time for us to decide how we want to move about in the future and seize the opportunities we have to shape a clean, healthy and sustainable transport future for Hampshire.

“We’ve already made some immediate changes across the county to traffic signals and signs, to give pedestrians more space and time. The next stage will be work on the ground to install physical measures which provide more space for safe social distancing.”

Further schemes are in development to support retail spaces which mean taking traffic and parking out of our town centres to create space.  These plans are being developed with Hampshire’s district and borough councils, Business Improvement Districts, town and parish councils, and other organisations who have expressed an interest.

To sign the petition, go to