'IT'S been a long time coming'.

That was the message from community leaders as lower speed limits are set to be introduced on South Lakeland roads in a move designed to encourage shoppers to spend on the high street.

The 20mph limits will be brought into roads in Kendal, Ulverston, Ambleside, Windermere, Bowness and Kirkby Lonsdale.

It is hoped lower speeds will ensure visitors feel safe as businesses bid to recover from the financial hammer blow caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 20mph limits will be in force for up to 18 months and could be removed earlier if the measures are no longer required.

Geoffrey Buswell is the chairman of Kirkby Lonsdale Town Council.

He thinks such restrictions have been a long time in coming.

"Our concern is that at weekends people wander about the streets not knowing that it’s not pedestrianised, so sooner or later there will be an accident," he said.

"The new limit will make it safer and our shops and traders will not be affected. This new limit should be made permanent as it will make it safer for visitors to our town.”

The reduced speed limits are part of an ongoing project led by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), working with partners including Cumbria County Council, parish and town councils and local business communities, to ensure visitors are reassured they can safely return to town centres in the district.

The project has already resulted in signage, posters and banners advising people to observe social distancing, hand sanitiser stations, advice and support for shops to reopen in accordance with the Government’s ‘Covid-secure’ guidance and street marshals patrolling in busy Lake District locations.

Michael Johnson, clerk for Lakes Parish Council, has long been concerned for Ambleside and thinks traffic has always gone slow through the town.

"This new limit is a way of going from self-policed speed limits into making things more official," he said.

"But on most days you're lucky if you can get up to 10 miles per hour through the town let alone 20mph. I doubt business will be affected or see any difference.”

The plans, developed in consultation with town and parish councils and local businesses, also considered highways changes, such as lowering speed limits in town centres to encourage drivers to be more aware of pedestrians stepping into the carriageway, or crossing the road more frequently, to maintain social distancing.

It is intended that the 20mph limit will come into force for the affected roads in Kendal and Ulverston from September 29, with Ambleside, Windermere, Bowness and Kirkby Lonsdale from October 6.

Cumbria County Council, as the highways authority, is now taking steps to implement temporary 20mph limits on the following roads:

lKendal - Kirkland and Highgate, including Lowther Street and Allhallows Lane.

lUlverston - From Coronation Hall to include town centre streets, plus Soutergate roundabout to King Street and Queen Street to A590.

lAmbleside - A593 from north of Wansfell Road junction up to Rydal Road to the north of the Rydal Road car park entrance and the A591 from its junction with the A593 at Compston Road down to the junction with Wansfell Road.

lWindermere - Ellerthwaite Square, east end of College Road and to include Elleray Road, High Street, Victoria Street, Crescent Road and Main Road (plus other internal streets) but not A591.

lBowness - The Promenade north of Glebe Road, Kendal Road north of Back Belsfield Road, Rayrigg Road to include the car park entrance and exit and Crag Brow towards Windermere to North Terrace.

lKirkby Lonsdale - Bottom of Mitchelgate to the junction of New Road and Main Street.

The project supporting the safe reopening of high streets is receiving funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).