STOURBRIDGE High Street could be closed to traffic as part of plans to ensure shoppers can shop safely and maintain social distancing when non essential stores re-open.

The possibility of closing the High Street, which has particularly narrow footpaths, during the day is being mooted as part of preparations being made by Dudley Council chiefs to enable shoppers to return to town centres safely when more shops re-open later this month following government advice that non essential retailers could start to open from June 15 as coronavirus lockdown measures ease.

The council is also working on a host of other measures to guide visitors in town centres and ensure social distancing guidelines can be followed.

They include widening footpaths by using part of the road in areas where there is high footfall. Signs, floor markers and one-way pedestrian access are also planned in some areas - and to enable this to take place some car parking bays could be temporarily suspended in town centres so they can be used to widen footpaths.

Councillor Karen Shakespeare, Dudley Council's cabinet member for environmental, highways and street services, said: "We need to do everything we can to support our town centres as we ease our way out of lockdown and help the recovery process. And while we welcome this progress, our priority must be the safety and wellbeing of people visiting and working in our town centres. It is important we get the balance right.

"We all need to take responsibility to follow social distancing guidelines and we hope that by putting measures in place, we will make it as easy and safe as possible for people to return and support their local high streets. We will continue to review the measures.

"As with any open space, we would urge people not to congregate and always be respectful of others.

"We will be communicating with retail premises in the town centres so they are fully aware of the action we are taking as they prepare to reopen."

The council is looking at the measures in line with a revised seven-day legal process introduced by the government, which allows local authorities to introduce the temporary measures including installing barriers and informing pedestrian flow the town centres.

Stourbridge councillor Nic Barlow said he had been made aware of concerns that people might not being able to adhere to the 2m social distancing rule in Stourbridge High Street and he said: "We have to ensure the safety and welfare of our residents. Personally, I feel non-essential traffic should be temporarily prevented from accessing the town centre around the High Street and Market Street."

Stourbridge Labour campaigner Cat Eccles spoke out yesterday calling for the High Street to be temporarily pedestrianised to help people shop safely and she said: “The post office is extremely busy with vulnerable people given little or no choice but to brush shoulders with people queuing to get back out onto the high street."