The plans to reallocate road space in Warwickshire’s town centres have been heralded by trade bodies in the area as being critical to the confidence of shoppers and vital to small town centre businesses reopening their doors for the first time since lockdown measures were introduced in late March.
Warwickshire County Council has been working with district and borough councils and other key local partners to develop plans to introduce temporary measures which reallocate road space to pedestrians and cyclists. The plans have drawn favourable comment from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.
They will also create greater space for queuing outside shops, an essential measure for small businesses if they are to operate safely and observe social distancing rules within their premises now that they are once again being allowed to open their doors to the public.
Initial schemes have been introduced in Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington Spa with schemes due to be implemented in Warwick on Thursday. Additional schemes are also expected to follow.
The measures are being introduced using temporary traffic management such as barriers, cones and signs including signs recently introduced by the Department for Transport to communicate social distancing messages and reminders to pedestrians.
Government guidance, ahead of some town centre businesses reopening, urged the public to go back to their town centres and to ‘shop with confidence’ but stressed that it was critical that people continue to respect social distancing measures so that they could do so safely.
The message was echoed by Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for economic development, Cllr Izzi Seccombe. She said: “The county council is now
moving into the second phase of our response to Covid-19 – that of recovery. Key to this is the economic recovery of the region and that needs our town centres to become the hub of local enterprise that they were until recently.
“Bringing customers back through their doors is key to this response so I urge residents to use their town centres but to do so responsibly and with caution. We have created significantly more space for the footfall to enable safe social distancing. If the extra space is allied to a careful, responsible attitude as well as the additional hygiene measures businesses have introduced then there is no reason that customers can’t go back into towns and help us to kickstart Warwickshire’s recovery.”
Louise Bennett, Chief Executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is a vital time for the economy as we see a phased return and restart for many businesses.
"It's important that consumers have the confidence to return to our town centres knowing that they can do so in a safe, socially distanced manner and that's why it is so important for these kinds of preparations to be made."
Rich Bishop, FSB West Midlands Regional Chair said “Non-essential retail, and smaller retailers in particular, have been hit hard by the shut-down necessitated by the Covid-19 crisis. It is very good news to see independent businesses safely re-opening this week across the county.
“While temporary plans to reallocate road space need to ensure that small businesses are still accessible and deliveries can still be made, ensuring employees and customers can safely travel from homes into town centres is paramount to recovery. Any measures that Warwickshire County Council can take to make social distancing easier and support as many small firms as possible to operate is to be welcomed”.
For further information go to https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/covid19roadlayouts