Open for business! Shops welcome back customers with social distancing measures in place
Social distancing measures are being put in place in town centres across Shropshire as the county prepares for the reopening of non-essential shops.
Pavements have been widened, parking bays suspended and temporary one-way systems put in place to ensure customers will be able to adhere to the two metre, or 6ft 7in, social distancing guidelines when shops reopen on Monday.
In Shrewsbury, a one-way system will be introduced in Wyle Cop, meaning that traffic will only be allowed to flow downhill away from the town centre.
Social distancing measures will be put in place in Victoria Quay, Pride Hill and High Street, as well as a trial contraflow cycle lane on New Street and one on Castle Street.
However, Anna Kayiatou, who runs the Lovely Little World home furnishings shop in Wyle Cop, said the first she knew about the measures was when the sign appeared this week.
She said she was worried the measures could hit trade and wanted people to know Wyle Cop was still open for business, and could still be accessed by car, even if it meant driving around town to get to it.
“It’s really hard to find information about what’s going on, we’ve had no notification,” she said.
“We’ve had terrible floods, Covid and now news of road diversions which will impact all the small businesses in Shrewsbury. We were not informed of these changes.”
Mrs Kayiatou said she was nevertheless excited to be reopening, and said traders along the Cop had decorated their shops with balloons ready for the big day.
In Bridgnorth, Councillor Christian Lea welcomed news that controversial plans to ban parking from the whole of High Street had been dropped.
The original proposals put forward by Shropshire Council have now been dropped following concerns from businesses and councillors. The bus stop will be repositioned towards Northgate, with the bus bay being turned into a pedestrian area. The work is expected to be carried out over the weekend.
Councillor Lea said: “I was very concerned all the parking was going to be lost from our High Street.
“With the shops having been shut for the best part of three months, it is imperative that Shropshire Council does not make life difficult for local shopkeepers by imposing such draconian parking measures.”
Telford & Wrekin Council said it had been working with town and parish councils to decide what measures would be implemented, adding that officials had visited Newport, Oakengates, Wellington, Madeley, Ironbridge, Dawley and Telford town centre to identify possible pinch-points and problem areas.
In Dawley, High Street will be closed to traffic from 8am to 4pm, while in Ironbridge The Wharfage, Tontine Hill and High Street will pedestrian-only at weekends. Keep left signs have been installed at both ends of the Iron Bridge, while the bus stop in the town has been moved into the road to create extra short-stay parking. The coach bays in The Wharfage have also been turned into general parking for cars and motorcycles.
In Madeley, on-street parking has been suspended between Tynsley Terrace and Park Avenue to increase pavement width, while the car park at the top of High Street has been extended on the left-hand side to create 15 extra spaces. A one-way pedestrian system has been introduced to the alley ways either side of the Anstice Memorial Hall, although the building itself remains closed.
In Newport, some parking bays have been suspended in High Street to allow queues outside shops, while in Oakengates parking bays outside The Mall in Market Street have also been suspended to widen the pedestrian area. Also in Oakengates a new two-way system has been put in place on the ramp leading up to the theatre, which remains closed.
The Southwater multi-storey car park to re-opens in Telford town centre on Monday, although only contactless payments will be accepted.
Seating areas around Southwater have been removed to create more space, and a two-way pedestrian system has been introduced on the steps between the bus station and the shopping entre. Signs reminding people of the importance of cleansing and social distances have been installed, as well as notices on various footbridges around the town asking people to keep left.
In Wellington, Walker Street will close on a trial basis, while some parking bays in Market Street have been suspended. There will also be a trial one-way system along Church Street, with a contraflow cycle lane being added.
Councillor Lee Carter, the cabinet member responsible for the measures, said it was important that different measures were imposed to meet the needs of each town centre.
“We also know that we might not get everything right first time and have committed to keeping everything under review,” he added.
Councillor Carter said it was vitally important to get the borough’s economy moving following the lockdown, but said at the same time people should still only go out when necessary and stay home where possible.
Shropshire Council spokesman Gareth Proffitt said the plans for its other centres were yet to be finalised.