In his regular column for the Hereford Times, North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin rounds on Herefordshire Council over its ideas about travel in the county's towns

AS we prise ourselves from the clutches of this dreadful virus, the rebuilding of our economy begins.

Furloughed workers are returning to work, shops are open once more and as of Saturday (July 4) pubs, restaurants and hairdressers are too.

In order to rebuild, we must all invest in our economy by supporting our high street and spending money locally.

RELATED NEWS: Bill Wiggin criticises council's spending on shopping centre

It has therefore been disappointing to see Herefordshire County Coalition Council’s response in meeting this crucial task.

Instead of opening up our town centres, they seek to shut them off, making them inaccessible to those from surrounding villages.

All this is under the guise of ‘being told’ that the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, a fund to promote walking and cycling to work for which Herefordshire will receive only £180,000, is forcing them to do so.

At a recent council cabinet meeting, a coalition councillor suggested that, “we are required by Government to do this, if we do not, they will come in and do it for us”.

This is both ludicrous and untrue.

In a letter, the DfT clarifies that “it reserves the right to claw funding back if the works are not done, but it is not the case that the Department will step in itself to do the works if the council fails to do so”.

This is an attempt by the coalition council to push through their ill-judged ‘Green’ agenda of two years ago.

The proposed town plans will require longer detours for vehicles entering towns thus emitting more carbon emissions and jeopardising response times for our emergency vehicles.

The Hereford bypass would have helped reduce dangerous emissions.

But again, this project was also delayed by the “Green” coalition council.

Recent decisions have led to concerned business owners writing to me daily, worried about their futures.

They feel that not only is the council wishing to neglect their businesses when they need support the most, but they are astounded that the council has just decided buy the Maylord Shopping Centre for £4.5million.

How is this spending justified when the council does not even know what it is going to put in the shopping centre?

It is a very worrying use of council taxpayers' money at a time when small business, retail and the environment need our support.

So please, when you are out shopping safely, use our local shops and lobby your county councillor to think again before decimating our town centres.