PROBLEMS with people being unable to socially distance on Bewdley Bridge have led to calls from local councillors and cyclists to widen the footpaths.

A new proposed scheme would see pathways widened on the bridge by making the road narrower in an effort to help walkers to socially distance while crossing, while also reducing air pollution by discouraging through-traffic.

Dr Clive Prince, chair of Wyre Forest Cycle Forum, is behind the proposal. He said: "This would make the bridge safer for walking and cycling, and discourage through traffic. It would also bring health benefits, particularly improvements in the air quality in Welch Gate and High Street.”

The bridge, which was built in 1798, currently carries two lanes of vehicle traffic and has pavements on either side for pedestrians.

Those behind the proposal say families and schoolchildren crossing the River Severn cannot follow social distancing guidelines - even at one metre - due the pavements being so narrow.

Ten members of the public spoke at a meeting of Worcestershire County Council's Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Panel earlier this month.

Among them was John Davis, co-ordinator of Wyre Forest Green Party, who said: "Many Bewdley school children will need to either cycle or walk over Bewdley Bridge where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

"A proposal for a temporary one-way system across the bridge for vehicles will enable wider walkways, safer cycling and will go some way towards helping alleviate the ongoing concerns of air pollution in Bewdley.

"We're urging the county council to support this measure for Bewdley Bridge. We all need to guard against Covid-19 and we clearly cannot have a situation where we ask students to keep one metre apart in the classroom whilst knowing this is impossible over this bridge".

Supporters of the proposal are asking Worcestershire County Council to use part of its £1.3m from the government's Emergency Active Travel Fund to invest in the project.

District councillor Vicky Caulfield said: "At the moment, there is an opportunity for Worcestershire County Council to target the £1.3m from the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, which is designed to fund this type of initiative.

"The proposal includes traffic monitoring to provide ongoing evaluation and also have the added benefit that it could be used to inform plans to improve air quality in Bewdley, which has been an issue for many years and is known to cause respiratory diseases."

A spokesman from Worcestershire County Council said: “Worcestershire County Council are in contact with district councils across the county regarding any potential changes to footways.

"We have discussed Bewdley Bridge at length, and decisions have been made with safety as a priority.

"Signage has been put up in Bewdley, as in other towns in the county, to remind people about social distancing and we will continue to monitor the situation on the bridge with our partners at Wyre Forest District Council.”