Decision details

Town Centre Social Distancing Measures

Decision Maker: Assistant Director Transport and Capital Projects

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: No

Purpose:

On 26th May 2020 Government announced that from 15 June 2020 some non-essential shops were able to re-open provided they were able to do so safely. The Council therefore needed to undertake an assessment and put in measures to support safe opening in the town centre. The Government issued guidance to enable Councils to prepare for the safe re-opening in Urban Centres and Green Spaces. “HM Government: Coronavirus (COVID 19): Safer Public Places – Urban Centres and Green Spaces”

A team of officers from across service areas undertook an assessment process to identify constraints and the measures that needed to be implemented across the town centre based on the national guidance. The overriding principle in designing and implementing the measures was public health considerations and ensuring business could re-open safely.

This included a range of measures such as:
- signing and floor markings
- queue management systems and engagement with town centre business.
- relocation of market stalls
- re-design of bus services and bus stops
- reallocation of road space to people walking and cycling, both to encourage active travel and to enable social distancing during restart.

This required a rapid assessment process, organising of resources, legal work and implementation within a very short time frame. Most of the measures above are planned to be implemented ahead of 15 June to support a safe re-opening of the town centre. However, the measures for reallocation of road space need to be implemented in phases as a result of timing of the supply of materials to deliver the measures.
Phase 1 – Town Centre, Imperial Quarter and some queue management guidance in Duke St, bus stop and provison re-design, relocation of market stalls
Phase 2 – Duke Street – Social Distancing space measures.

All measures will be kept under continuous review and where possible modified. However, the overriding principle in designing and implementing the measures is public health considerations and the circumstances are likely to change over the coming weeks/months.

Financial/staffing/health & safety (incl virus transmission risks)/service delivery impacts/other risks and impacts considered:

The measures were implemented to reduce transmission risks in the town centre and on public transport.

The funding of some of the measures was included in a bid to the DFT Active Travel Emergency Fund, where footpath widening, and reallocation of road space was encouraged to retain social distancing.

Impacts on businesses were considered in terms of suspension of parking spaces but public health was considered a higher priority and free parking remained available very close to locations suspended and remained free.

Loading provision and disabled parking places were considered and some were able to be retained in temporary locations.

The necessary legal orders were processed to implement the changes.

Equality Impacts:

An initial screening exercise identified that there would potentially be impacts on some people with protected characteristics, specifically on the basis of age, disability, pregnancy and maternity and carers.

Due to the emergency situation, changing guidance/advice/legislation a full EIA has not been completed. Instead a more dynamic approach was proposed with consideration being given to any changes when proposed. As many of the decisions will be regarding the physical environment we will work with Gordon Pybus from DAD, but not on the basis of a full consultation. This advice and guidance has informed the decision making and proposed mitigation.

There have been discussions with DAD regarding detailed plans for bus stops, bus services, suspension of parking bays (including the relocation of disabled parking bays) and footway widening. DAD has provided additional guidance from RNIB.

Following implementation of the social distancing measures we have committed to respond to issues raised such as enforcement of the restrictions and providing further information on the timing for key mitigation such as the installation of temporary dropped kerbs.

In addition some of the plans regarding cycling will be discussed with Darlovelo in relation to cycle provision.

Decision:

To implement the social distancing measures considered necessary to support the reopening of the town centre safely and any subsequent modifications within the principles of the government guidance and to authorise legal orders necessary to implement the measures.

Reason - To implement measures to support safe opening of the town centre and manage the risk of transmission of the virus. The over-riding principle being public health considerations.

Alternative options considered:

As part of the assessment process using the national guidance numerous options were considered at various locations all having implications.

The measures were developed and implemented before shops re-opened based on national guidance, there was a very short window to get them in place to ensure businesses could re-open safely and there was no precedent on how customers would return after lock-down. The principle adopted ensured public health was a priority and there was enough space to social distance upon re-opening. The plan developed for implementation is considered to be the most appropriate with the information available.

The proposals are to be kept under dynamic review when implemented and adjustments that could be made to support business within the principles of the guidance will be implemented.

Publication date: 23/11/2020

Date of decision: 26/05/2020