Getting ready for wider reopening of towns

With more shops expected to open later this month, Dudley Council has been preparing to put plans in place to allow people to visit the town centres safely.

The government has advised that non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen on June 15 as it continues with steps to gradually ease the lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak.

The council is working on measures to guide visitors in the town centres and ensure social distancing guidelines can be followed.

Priority areas will be places with narrow footpaths and busy pedestrian areas. Measures could include widening footpaths by using part of the road in areas where there is high footfall. Signs, floor markers and one-way pedestrian access are also planned in some areas.

To allow this to take place, some car parking bays could be temporarily suspended in town centres so they can be used to widen footpaths.

In Stourbridge, the council is considering plans to close High Street during the day due to the particularly narrow footpaths.

The council is looking at the measures in line with a revised seven-day legal process introduced by government, which allows councils to introduce the temporary measures, which includes installing barriers and informing pedestrian flow in each of the town centres.

Car parking charges also currently remain suspended.

Councillor Karen Shakespeare, cabinet member for environmental, highways and street services, said:

"We need to do everything we can to support our town centres as we ease our way out of lockdown and help the recovery process. And while we welcome this progress, our priority must be the safety and wellbeing of people visiting and working in our town centres. It is important we get the balance right.

"We all need to take responsibility to follow social distancing guidelines and we hope that by putting measures in place, we will make it as easy and safe as possible for people to return and support their local high streets. We will continue to review the measures.

"As with any open space, we would urge people not to congregate and always be respectful of others.

"We will be communicating with retail premises in the town centres so they are fully aware of the action we are taking as they prepare to reopen."

For coronavirus advice and support in Dudley borough as well as information on services affected go to www.dudley.gov.uk/coronavirus