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Re-opening our high streets safely webinar

social distancing

Measures to support business get back on their feet while helping to keep the rate of infection from Covid-19 down have been addressed in the latest webinar organised by Bath & North East Somerset Council.

The hour-long webinar attracted 100 online guests who were able to ask council leaders, Bath BID and the council’s director for Public Health questions about the social distancing measures, barriers and other measures being put in place to help the city re-open safely.

Businesses and residents are being urged to watch the webinar on the council’s Youtube channel to help understand the very ‘fine line’ between controlling the Covid-19 outbreak and allowing life to get back to normal.

Issues covered in the webinar included the barriers the council has installed to enable footpath widening to allow social distancing, its impact on traders, the use of A boards, licencing for tables and chairs and the need for everyone to play their part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and a second lockdown.

Panellists on the webinar were Councillor Dine Romero, council leader, Councillor Paul Crossley, cabinet member for Communities, Councillor Joanna Wright, joint cabinet member for Transport Services, Allison Herbert, chief executive of Bath Business Improvement District and Dr Bruce Laurence, director of Public Health for Bath & North East Somerset.

Dr Bruce Laurence told the webinar that the area had been very affected by the virus but not as much as compared to the rest of the country and was in a good place to keep it that way and improve on the rate of infection.

But he warned: “The one thing all experts do agree on is that we are treading a fairly  fine line between controlling the outbreak and letting it rip again and there is very limited room for manoeuvre which is why there are opposing pressures to keep the infection rate down and an equal pressure to bring life back to our business. These pressures are being played out now.”

He stressed that individual behaviour mattered and it was part of the role of the council to encourage people to take measures seriously including basic hygiene and social distancing.

This week the council installed barriers in the city centre and in shopping areas including Larkhall, Weston and Moorland Road to enable footpath widening. From Monday some city centre roads will have access restrictions to make it safe for people to walk and queue outside shops as they re-open.

The measures are part of the council’s response to the Government’s instruction to help people safely social distance.

Councillor Joanna Wright, joint cabinet member for Transport Services, told the webinar she recognised the concern among some businesses about the footpath widening measures affecting their business.

And she urged people to shop local saying it was the butchers and greengrocers who had done a magnificent job keeping people going during the lockdown and that we should all continue to support them.

She said: “We will be reviewing the decisions we are making, some people like them, others don’t, some people want them to stay and others don’t. I don’t want to use the word opportunity because thousands of people have died due to this pandemic but we are now in a situation where we can trial things and we can see if there is a better way to move around our spaces. I hope the community takes this moment to help us with that.”  

To watch the webinar please follow this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g82QtfuEjCI

ENDS

Notes to editors

To help pedestrians to safely social distance, pavements will be widened in

  • Camden Road
  • St Saviours Road
  • Manvers Street
  • Monmouth Place
  • Monmouth Street
  • Moorland Road
  • North Parade
  • Queen Square
  • Somerset Street
  • Terrace Walk
  • Walcot Street,
  • Westgate Buildings
  • Weston High Street.

Phase two will include

  • Keynsham
  • Peasedown St John
  • Midsomer Norton
  • Radstock

These locations have been selected because there is a likelihood that people will step into the road as a result of the two-metre social distancing rule or a need to improve segregation between pedestrians and busy roads.

The pavement widening began on Monday 8 June and will be completed in time for the relaxing of government restrictions on Monday 15 June, which allows non-essential retail shops to reopen.  

Temporary barriers have been placed along the roads to separate the pedestrian area from traffic, and tarmac ramps will be provided to ensure that people using pushchairs and wheelchairs will be able to get to and from the shops. In some locations, to create the space, the use of parking bays will be suspended.

From Monday 15th June the council will also be closing the following streets to all motor vehicles from 10am-6pm daily, as well as removing parking bays.

  • Cheap Street
  • Westgate Street
  • Saw Close
  • Upper Borough Walls
  • York Street

The parking bays in these streets will be available to use outside of the 10am – 6pm access restriction.

We have chosen these streets as widening the pavements would provide insufficient space for traffic to move safely when people are queueing outside shops. A similar restriction will be introduced in Milsom Street between 10am and 6pm although buses will still be allowed to pass through. However, barriers will block access to parking spaces in Milsom Street apart from an additional loading bay which will be available for use from 6pm to 10am.

Exemptions to these closures will be limited to emergency services and emergency utility works as well as a very limited number of other operations. The restrictions will be removed between the hours of 6pm and 10am.

All these measures will be in place for the duration of government advice, which all councils have been directed to follow to support the recovery from Covid 19.

 For further information on the temporary measures, including Frequently Asked Questions, please visit our website www.bathnes.gov.uk/bathsocialdistancing

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