PLANS to temporarily close the main road through the heart of Romsey – in a bid to protect people from coronavirus – could happen “early next week”.

This comes after Hampshire County Council (HCC) announced The Hundred had been added to its list of projects to help people socially distance by providing more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

Now, Romsey town centre manager, Mark Edgerley, has revealed the road closure could happen “early next week”, meaning The Hundred would shut to motorists from “just past Superdrug to Latimer Street”.

Mr Edgerley said: “Vehicles will be prohibited from entering the part of the Market Place where Caffè Nero and The White Horse Hotel are located.”

READ: Council U-turns on closing The Hundred >>> 

However, he added that drivers should still be able to “access private parking behind Superdrug, drop and pick up customers from the White Horse Hotel, set up markets” and use the space for “limited other reasons”.

Romsey Advertiser: Mark Edgerley Mark Edgerley

He said: “We expect signage will be available to introduce the scheme early next week, as there are delays in sign production due to demand.

“Advance signage will be placed on all roads into Romsey encouraging drivers to use car parks and walk into the centre.”

As well as this, the town centre manager told the Advertiser that access to Bell Street, Church Street and Abbey Water – via the United Reformed Church “remains as it is now”, but stressed “further updates will follow.”

When asked how he feels about The Hundred potentially being closed next week, Mr Edgerley said: “I am very pleased Hampshire County Council have agreed to this closure, which is very sensible.

“Hopefully it will increase the confidence of local residents who wanted to come into the narrow bit of The Hundred to shop.”

This was a feeling expressed by other town leaders.

Cllr Mark Cooper, who represents Romsey Tadburn on Test Valley Borough Council, said: “I am very pleased it is happening, although the county council took a long time to get started on the design and layout.

“However, they have produced a plan very quickly and the sooner we can get it in place the better.

“My aim is to create a better shopping environment for residents in the town centre and this is one way of achieving that.”

READ: Romsey business owners react to first week of trading as shops reopen >>> 

Romsey Advertiser: Cllr Mark CooperCllr Mark Cooper

Deputy leader for Test Valley Borough Council, cllr Nick Adams-King, added: “This is down to the pressure members of the public have put on Hampshire County Council to do this as well as the great work done by Mark Edgerley.

“Test Valley Brough Council have greased the wheels for this by offering to pay half of the costs, which could come to £10,000, because the priority for us all is to make sure The Hundred is safe for people to use.

“It is the right thing to do to close the road and I hope it will happen soon.”

Romsey Advertiser: Cllr Nick Adams-KingCllr Nick Adams-King

In a letter to the Romsey Advertiser, deputy leader of HCC and executive member for economy, transport and environment, Cllr Rob Humby, said: “I would like to reassure Romsey residents that there is no need for concern about The Hundred ‘not being closed off to vehicles’ as some people may have been led to believe from a recent news report.

“On the contrary, this is in our programme for the very near future as part of our work to support the economic recovery of Hampshire by making more space for people walking and cycling as the high street reopens.”

However, he added: “I was disappointed at the town centre manager’s reported comments about the county council’s lack of support for Romsey Town Centre.

“In fact Romsey was one of the first five locations across Hampshire to benefit from immediate social distancing measures in support of local businesses; and comes after the county council completed over £3million of town centre improvements in recent years – investment I’m sure most of Hampshire’s market towns would be very glad to have and recognise.”

He added: “Our social distancing travel plans, including The Hundred, are available on our web page which is updated daily as work progresses: www.hants.gov.uk/hantscovidtravel.”

READ: Romsey residents react to poll on shops reopening >>> 

Romsey Advertiser: Cllr Rob Humby Cllr Rob Humby

A spokesperson from HCC said: “We are doing our utmost to deliver The Hundred pop-up hopefully by the end of this week and will keep our website updated on progress”.

As previously reported in the Romsey Advertiser, community leaders from across Test Valley pleaded with HCC to close the road to drivers for when shops reopened on Monday, June 15.

They argued this would allow locals to support local businesses while still staying a safe distance apart.