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Coronavirus (Covid-19) - Work under way to safely reopen South Somerset’s High Streets

| District

With Covid-19 lockdown restrictions relaxing, South Somerset District Council (SSDC) is putting measures in place  to prepare for the phased reopening of non-essential retail businesses on Monday 15 June.

SSDC is engaging with a range of groups including businesses, town councils and shoppers to ensure the safest possible experience when visiting the district’s high streets.

To create safe shopping spaces SSDC will be using money from the European Regional Development Fund for Reopening High Streets Safely to introduce measures including temporary barriers and signage as well as reviewing street furniture. Car parks will be open as usual.

READ MORE: See all of our guidance in relation to the impact of Coronavirus

There are also proposed road closures in Yeovil and Chard from early next week which form part of a joined up county wide approach to increase active travel opportunities in Somerset and create safe wide open spaces which give shoppers confidence to return to the high street. Following Government advice to avoid the use of public transport where possible we are looking to encourage active travel such as walking and cycling and aim to ensure effective access for all forms of travel. Although this will result in limited road closures we will work with those affected to minimise disruption.

Council Leader Val Keitch said: “There are many aspects to consider and alongside our partners we are taking a measured approach to reassure both shoppers and businesses.

“By supporting traders we want the public to visit shops with the confidence that measures are in place to help to protect them.

“We recognise that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to safe high streets doesn’t apply in South Somerset. Actions that might be appropriate in Yeovil or Chard won’t necessarily work in some of our smaller towns where there are narrow footpaths and less defined retail areas. Therefore we are working in partnership with our Town Councils to risk assess each town and work on ways of creating safe flows of pedestrians which maintain social distancing guidance.

“We plan to keep any disruption to a minimum but it is critical that any interventions we take balance the consideration of preventing the spread of COVID-19 whilst also encouraging people to shop in the high street. We are trying to be as flexible as possible in our approach to the actions we are taking and we’ll be monitoring them to ensure they are effective.

“As a local authority we are doing all we can to promote the safe reopening of high streets however it is critical that everyone works together to create a safe environment. This includes shoppers maintaining social distancing guidelines, bringing hand sanitiser and observing any guidance in each town and shops creating appropriate and open spaces for customers to shop and queue safely.”

To support businesses during Covid-19 SSDC has set up a dedicated area on our website . This includes information on business grants as well as signposting businesses to resources such as the Better Business for All toolkit and national guidance.

Active Travel

Somerset has been allocated £120,000 in emergency funding for temporary measures to encourage walking and cycling. 

The five Local Authorities in Somerset have been working with the police and other partners to identify a list of priority action areas (“quick wins”). 

A number of ideas have been put forward which meet the government guidance to prioritise social distancing and public health. 

However, the limited amount of funding confirmed so far cannot be used for major infrastructure changes – only for temporary measures (barriers, cones etc) which are cheaper to deliver but can be costly to maintain. 

The multi-agency group will now be working with partners and local representatives to target the funding at areas which require immediate action and can be delivered quickly. 

Types of measures being considered may include: 

  • Restrictions to motorised traffic on some roads
  • Widening footways 
  • Creating cycle lanes
  • Providing better walking/cycle route information

The plans will be continually reviewed based on any feedback we received and Government policy including the impact of any measures (for example, access and maintenance issues).   

Delivering these schemes at pace will be a challenge but all five local authorities are committed to seizing the opportunity and working with town & parish to enable positive changes to the nature of our towns to encourage more walking and cycling.  

Thank you. You response is appreciated.

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