Cheshire East Council prepares for reopening of town centres
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, Cheshire East Council is preparing for the reopening of the borough’s town centres and urging businesses to access the support available to them.
Following the government’s latest announcement on its plans for exiting lockdown, all non-essential retail will reopen from April 12, as well as restaurants, bars and cafes for outdoor table service only and hair and nail salons, libraries, and gyms.
To support businesses to welcome back customers safely, the council will shortly be launching a public information campaign, funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
The campaign will inform people of the Covid-19 measures in place to protect them and the precautions they need to take to aid the safe reopening of the borough’s 11 town centres, as well as encourage them to support local businesses – which is more important than ever.
Frank Jordan, Cheshire East Council’s executive director for place, said: “We look forward to our town centres and high streets reopening but this must be done in a safe way, given the ongoing pandemic.
“Businesses have already been hit hard and are now having to adapt to what is a very different business landscape, while complying with a number of Covid-safe measures.
“The council’s regulatory services team is continuing to offer guidance and support to businesses regarding the current restrictions put in place by government and I urge them to get in touch if they have any questions or concerns – our officers are here to help.
“I would also like to appeal to the public to play their part in ensuring our town centres can reopen safely, by taking personal responsibility to help stop the spread of the virus.
“This includes wearing a face covering where necessary – including in shops – making sure they sanitise their hands and maintaining social distancing, which still applies with the rule of six.
“By adhering to the safety measures, people can relieve some of the pressure facing local businesses and not put them in the position of having to turn people away or face possible enforcement action."
The council will also be proactively working with town and parish councils to utilise an additional recently announced stream of European Regional Development Funding (ERDF), through the ‘Welcome Back Fund’.
The funding will be used to support activities and initiatives that help local businesses to prepare to reopen safely and successfully.
To support hospitality businesses, the council has amended its temporary pavement licence, making it free for businesses to apply.
The licences, also known as ‘alfresco licences’, are valid until September 2022 and grant permission to set up temporary outside seating to allow for social distancing measures.
The council is keen to work in partnership to support Cheshire East’s town centres to thrive and is developing a number of Town Centre Vitality Plans, which will identify potential initiatives to support businesses and the local economy moving forward.
Mr Jordan said: “The aim is to create exciting and vibrant places that increase footfall and activity. This builds on existing plans and projects we have been delivering across the borough.
“In response to the pandemic and in support of our Macclesfield Strategic Regeneration Framework, we’ve also endorsed a Covid-19 recovery plan for Macclesfield, which will see us working with partners to drive forward a positive future for the town.
”Meanwhile, the council is inviting applications for the government’s Restart Grant, having so far paid out more than £134m in grants to Cheshire East businesses to help boost their recovery and rebuild the local economy.
The Restart Grant scheme supports eligible non-essential retail businesses and hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses with one-off grants of up to £18,000 to help them reopen safely.
The council is also awaiting further details from government on an extra allocation of funding for the Additional Restrictions Grant to allow it to open another round of applications. A further announcement will be made soon.