Rushcliffe Borough Council’s Cabinet has expressed its disappointment at Nottinghamshire County Council’s choice to not temporarily pedestrianise Central Avenue in West Bridgford and support businesses re-opening from July 4.
The Council’s Executive has joined calls from local restaurants, bars and businesses to review the decision so many can trade safely in an extended outdoor area onto pavements and the highway, providing owners with a more viable offer to reopen and secure more local jobs.
Leader of the Council Cllr Simon Robinson said: “We are deeply disappointed by the County Council’s stance to not support Central Avenue businesses in this manner and help us bring further life back to our high streets and town centres.
“We have contacted those in the hospitality trade in the town centre and all have welcomed any plans that can help them increase trade safely.
“We have done everything we can to assist owners to open and assess where additional outdoor space could be utilised through short term pedestrianisation but we have hit a brick wall from the County Council’s restricted and narrow-minded plans.
“The public realm plans announced by the County Council will have little to no impact, not make it easier to operate and attract customers and adapt to social distancing measures.
“There is a risk that customers will not visit outlets where so relatively few can enjoy a bite to eat or a drink. The extended space could have given them the opportunity to operate closer to pre-COVID-19 capacity levels of their premises.
“This is a huge missed opportunity and does not build on the advice outlined by central government’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on how key our role in local government is to support businesses getting back on their feet.”
John Proctor, Director at FHP Consultants who oversee bar and restaurant premises in the town centre on behalf of landlords and tenants said now is the time for local government to allow businesses to be creative to welcome back customers.
He said: “We need to take the pressure off business and the reliance on being indoors to give people the confidence to return to the high street.
“People may not return if they feel it is not safe and extending outdoor seating areas is one way this can be achieved.
“We need to be creative here and provide this extra external space in an extended outdoor environment where risk is lowered.
“We need to police the negatives and release the positives and businesses need to be freed up to operate in a new normal way.”
Cllr Robinson added: “Reports nationally state many businesses may have to lay off jobs to survive and we want to do everything in our power to ensure businesses here in Rushcliffe do not have to do that.
“Just like with our annual Christmas Lights and Taste of Rushcliffe events on Central Avenue, local bus routes can easily be redirected, deliveries to businesses adapted and disabled users would not be inconvenienced by these changes.
“There is incredibly limited space in any town centre but there is a natural opportunity to make changes for the better here and pedestrianising it in the short term would also make this area safer for customers.
“There is still time to make these changes to the area swiftly and easily ahead of July 4 in line with dedicated funds government have allocated for projects such as this to help support these high street businesses.
“It’s vital we revisit this and we implore the County Council to review the decision for the benefit of all businesses in West Bridgford town centre.”
Councillor Kay Cutts, MBE, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council said: “This county needs to get back on its feet and I champion that but as the Highway Authority for Nottinghamshire, it is also my duty to balance the needs of supporting local business and our residents whilst ensuring the safety of everyone.
“Following the guidance from the PM yesterday on social distancing being reduced to 1metre from July 4th, the initial requirements for our town centres across the county have changed and with that in mind, we will be keeping under review all of the temporary measures we are introducing to support businesses and local people in response to Covid-19.
“Many elderly people use public transport exclusively, and from my observations of using this service, there are some extremely old people with underlying health conditions including neurological conditions, COPD, arthritis, and heart conditions, who – if they are alighting from the bus in Central Avenue – are clearly where they wish to be. Why would we inconvenience them by giving them an extra walk?
“Central Avenue includes vital services such as the pharmacy, health food shops, supermarkets and opticians. Not to mention recreation in the bars and restaurants or browsing in the book shop if I make it harder for those people who need to access theses facilities by bus or by using a disabled parking bay how will they resume the freedom of daily life that we are all entitled to?
“Re-routing buses and removing disabled parking bays will cause significant problems for Bridgford Road which is already a very busy road, heavily congested and with a number of conflicts with pedestrians, car users, and in particular small children attending the nursery.
“Whilst getting the county back on its feet is of paramount importance to me, I will not exclude groups of the community. We are inclusive in the way we work, and we will look to support everyone.”