PRESSURE is mounting on a Conservative-run council to introduce a series of measures to cut emissions and improve travel safety from opportunities presented by the Covid-19 crisis.

The call from Darlington Borough Council’s Labour group to such introduce many more 20mph zones across the town, speed up buses by re-allocating road space and improve cycling and walking routes follows Transport Secretary Grant Shapps telling local authorities they must “make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians”.

Earlier this month, Mr Shapps said: “We recognise this moment for what it is: a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a lasting transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities.”

The announcement has already been welcomed by cycle group Darlovelo and the borough’s Green Party.

Leader of the council’s Labour group Councillor Stephen Harker said he appreciated planning would be complicated by uncertainty over the amount of the Government funding the authority would receive, but it was “time for Darlington Borough Council to work with other councils in the Tees Valley to seize the agenda”.

He said: “Rolling out 20mph zones across Darlington will make our roads, especially on busy routes and around schools, much safer and reduce air pollution. The council must look at the major routes in and out of Darlington like Woodland Road and North Road to make them safer for cyclists and pedestrians and speed up buses by re-allocating road space where possible.

“Finally, the council needs to work much more closely with residents to sort out local blackspots that are preventing people moving around Darlington more freely.”

Leader of the authority’s Green Party, Councillor Matthew Snedker, said people in Darlington had been very happy about the reduction of traffic during lockdown, particularly in residential areas. He said he supported a number of the schemes Labour were pressing for.

He said while safely connecting residential areas with the town centre, Bank Top and North Road stations as well as employment centres must be a top priority, his party wanted to see the closure of streets around all schools to through traffic for 45 minutes at the start and end of the day, more cycle parking facilities, action to stop rat-running and pedestrian and cycle-only streets.

The council’s local services cabinet member, Councillor Andy Keir, said the authority was focusing its resources into ensuring travel routes were safe, that there was adequate transport and that all types of transport were catered for.

He added: “I see it as a chance to make change. Various schemes are being looked at in the light of the circumstances. Highways officers are looking at the practicalities of all suggestions. It would be silly not to look at any good ideas available to them.”