An MP has welcomed a U-turn on plans to close a high street to traffic following concerns it would further harm businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers said there had been significant public opposition to Barnet Council’s plan for a temporary ban on vehicles in High Street, Chipping Barnet.

The planned closure, which would have begun on August 24, was designed to allow shoppers to socially distance by tackling a Covid-19 “risk spot” caused by narrow pavements near St John the Baptist Church.

Ms Villiers called for councillors to stop the proposal, warning it could cause traffic congestion and deter visitors – adding to pressure on struggling local businesses.

The MP said: “I am really grateful to councillors for listening to my representations, along with those of many other residents who have been in touch to say they want their high street to stay open.

“I want to thank them for acting swiftly and taking on board public opposition to the closure. This is a sensible response to the views of local people. Out talking to traders, they all said to me that it was a big relief that pedestrianisation would not happen.

“I accept that we need innovative thinking to keep our high street safe, welcoming and successful, but I am not convinced that pedestrianisation is the right way forward.”

Ms Villiers added that she felt the “impact of congestion on ambulances travelling to Barnet Hospital had not been fully assessed”.

Transport chiefs will continue working with ward councillors to improve safety in the area near St John the Baptist Church.

A Barnet Council spokesperson said: “We have identified a Covid-19 risk spot near St John the Baptist Church in Barnet High Street. Due to the historic nature of the town, the pavements here are very narrow. They do not provide sufficient space for people to pass each other in a socially distanced way. It is our job to protect the health and safety of people in the borough as best we can.

“Our officers are liaising with ward councillors and have an on-site meeting with them next week to look at how we can improve safety in the area.”