Letter sent to residents & town centre business owners regarding street safety measures.

Letter sent to residents & town centre business owners regarding street safety measures.

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Burnham-on-Sea High Street lots of people

By Hand – 16th June 2020

Dear resident/ business owner,

Re: Changes to accommodate social distancing in Burnham-on-Sea town centre

The Town Mayor has asked me to write to you to explain some of the rapid and difficult decisions this Council has had to make over recent weeks in relation to Coronavirus.

Coronavirus has taken its toll on our communities and on our economy. It has shown the good nature of our communities as they work hard to support each other through this crisis, but it has also further emphasised the vulnerable position of our high streets.

The Government very recently set out its timeline for the reopening of retail businesses, announcing that non-essential shops can re-open from Monday 15 June provided they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines to ensure that customers and staff are protected from coronavirus.

The Government has advised local authorities to make appropriate changes to local roads to help with social distancing for pedestrians.

Burnham-on-Sea town centre is a priority area for the Town Council due to the high footfall on narrow paths, especially during the summer tourist season. Ensuring the safety of customers returning to the Town Centre is important to restarting the local economy. However, even with appropriate signage, queues outside shops will conflict with passing pedestrians, bringing them into close contact with each other or causing them to step into the road to maintain safe distance.

The Town Council initiated talks with the principal authorities (Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council) & the Chamber of Trade, to consider the options for increased Town Centre safety, including configuration of roads and pavements, signage, markings, and cleaning.

On 27th May, the Town Council held a meeting to discuss street safety, to which Somerset County Council, Sedgemoor District Council and the Chambers of Trade for both Burnham and Highbridge were invited. Subsequently a media release was issued to seek comments from those affected by possible changes to the Town Centre, including temporary pedestrianisation of the High Street. The Council appreciates that not everyone checks online resources, but whilst shops were closed, hand delivery of letters to those premises at that time would have had less reach.

There have been concerns raised that the loss of parking outside of shops will negatively impact businesses, that road closures will complicate deliveries, as well as the need to take into account those less mobile.

Although these concerns are valid, on balance, it was agreed by the Town Council that doing nothing was not an option, and that other possibilities, such as a pavement one-way system, would not create the space required to allow pedestrians to appropriately socially distance from one another. Therefore, the Town Council agreed to submit a proposal to Somerset County Council, the Highways Authority, that it temporarily closes the High Street to vehicles, and makes other town centre roads one-way, so pavements can be widened.

These measures are being taken to enable people to maintain social distancing whilst we are still at risk of Coronavirus, and to encourage them to safely use the town centre businesses to restart the local economy.

The Highways Authority has subsequently put in place a temporary traffic order that will take effect on:

Thursday 18th June.

Road closure will apply between trading hours: 0900hrs to 1730hrs Monday to Saturday and 1000hrs to 1600hrs Sunday.

One-way road systems will apply 24/7 and for as long as temporary traffic order is in place.

Important: If you park your vehicle on any of the new one-way streets overnight from Wednesday 17th June, please park your car facing the way of the directional arrow on the map and ensure its removed by the usual time of 0900hrs.

It was hoped that the road closures could apply during a shorter daily period, but the Highways authority has stated that pedestrian safety requires closure either 24/7 or during trading hours as a minimum.

These measures are temporary

We will be listening to government advice as lockdown measures are eased and will regularly monitor and review the road layout, making suggestions to the Highways Authority based on feedback we receive from residents and businesses.

It remains that, if the pedestrianisation is shown to not achieve its primary purpose of enabling safe social distancing, or if it creates greater problems, then it can be adapted, changed or removed at short notice. 

You can find the temporary traffic order closing High Street and applying one-way systems to other roads in the town centre on the Town Council website; www.burnham-highbridge-tc.gov.uk (a map to illustrate the closures is enclosed with this letter). 

Street Marshals will be on hand to help

The Town Council, along with the principal councils and the Burnham Chamber of Trade, are committed to providing as safe a shopping environment as possible. We know that more people are now shopping online, but by helping our residents and visitors feel safe when visiting the town centre, we will help them feel confident they can support the high street by shopping locally.  

The County Council will continue to monitor the road closures and be on-call 24/7 to address any problems. The Town Council will appoint clearly visible Street Marshals who will help the temporary pedestrianisation to operate as smoothly as possible. They will guide the few vehicles that require access to closed areas and help businesses, residents, emergency services and delivery drivers with access requirements. The Marshals will positively support and reassure everyone using our town centre, with the aim of maintaining a safe and friendly shopping experience.

What else are we doing to help with safety and social distancing measures?

Instructional signage and pavement markings are being applied in the town and High Street by Sedgemoor District Council. The Government has been clear that before retailers can reopen, safety measures must first be in place. They should display a notice visibly in their shop window to show their employees, customers and other visitors that they have followed the guidance and are COVID Secure. The Chamber of Trade & Sedgemoor District Council have been on hand to offer retailers help to be COVID secure. Guidance produced by Sedgemoor District Council has been included with this letter.

Free-standing hand sanitiser units will be placed at intervals along the High Street for public use between the hours 09:00hrs and 17:30hrs

I have a Blue Badge for disabled parking, can I still have access?

We are working with the Highways Authority to establish whether disabled drivers can have access to the pedestrianised High Street at designated times in the day. We will publicise the position once we receive it.

The same number of disabled parking bays will be retained, but some will be relocated a few metres to create space for social distancing.

Will my deliveries or emergency services access be affected?

Under the new temporary arrangements, emergency vehicles and delivery lorries will still have access into the High Street and will be guided to do so safely by the Street Marshals.

Who do I contact if I need further information?

If you require any information or would like to give feedback on the street safety measures, please email: info@burnham-highbridge-tc.gov.uk

Mark your email for the attention of Lorna Williams, Deputy Clerk, who will do her best to help or put you in contact with someone who can.

Yours sincerely

Samantha Winter

Town Clerk

Covid-19 Re-opening the High Streets – FAQs

Advice for businesses and customers on a safe return to shopping

This information is designed to answer some of the questions that might arise for people who are concerned about the re-opening of non-essential shops during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Which shops can open for business?

All shops in England will be able to open with social distancing measures in place from June 15, provided that the government continues to consider that its five key tests are being met.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes should remain closed except for takeaways until July 4 when they might be able to open if they can meet social distancing measures. Hairdressers, hotels, cinemas and places of worship are in the same category.

What are shops expected to do before reopening?

Before reopening, to help them decide what actions to take, shops must carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with their unions or workers. If they have fewer than five workers, they do not have to write it down but may need to be able to demonstrate they have done one. For shops, there is a handy tool from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/assessment.htm

Checks should be made on ventilation systems and water supplies. (There is a leaflet on Legionnaires’ Disease on the Sedgemoor District Council website).

Employers should also display a notice (a copy is on the SDC website) visibly in their shop windows or outside their store to show their employees, customers and other visitors that they have followed the Government’s guidance.

What can shops do to ensure customers adhere to social distancing?

  • Discourage movement in restricted parts of the shop and make movement easier in others
  • Consider use of radios or telephones, where permitted, to reduce movement of workers and allowing more space for customers
  • Regulate use of high traffic areas and introduce a one-way flow if possible
  • Providing floor markings and signage to remind workers and customers to follow to social distancing wherever possible (The Council has a range of these if required, please ask)
  • Define the number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing and limit entry to that number at any one time
  • Encourage customers to shop alone where possible, unless they need specific assistance
  • Remind customers with children that they are responsible for supervising them at all times and should follow social distancing guidelines
  • Use outside areas for queuing where available and safe and manage these queues using signs, barriers or staff members if available. Work with the Council and other retailers to manage outside queues (The Council may be able to supply barriers if requested)
  • Ensure any changes to entries, exit and queue management take into account reasonable adjustments for those who need them, including disabled shoppers

What do I do if I think a shop is not trading safely?

You can contact your local council and ask to speak to someone in the Environmental Health Team, you can email them on environmental.services@sedgemoor.gov.uk

What steps can shops take to help customers shop safely?

  • Encourage customers to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises to reduce the risk of transmission by touching products while browsing
  • Encourage customers to avoid handling products whilst browsing
  • Have clearly designated positions from which colleagues can provide advice or assistance to customers whilst maintaining social distance
  • Work with neighbouring businesses and the Council on how to spread the number of people arriving throughout by perhaps staggering opening hours
  • Frequently clean objects and surfaces that are touched regularly and ensure adequate disposal arrangements for cleaning materials

What should shopping centres be doing for visitors?

  • Shopping centres should regulate the number of customers in the centre and the queuing process in communal areas on behalf of the retailers

Can shops allow customers to try on clothes?

  • Fitting rooms should not be made available unless it is for essential items
  • If goods are returned because they do not fit they should be stored in a separate room for 72 hours before being returned for sale

We have received some enquiries about the new temporary road changes to Burnham town centre.

Answers to some of the frequently asked questions are below.

We are very grateful for people’s patience with us as we navigate this time of change.

FAQs

Q. The letter from the Town Council says I have to move my car by 9am. I live on a road that does not usually have parking restrictions, where should I park my car?

A. The paragraph (shown in red below) from the letter asking people to ensure their car is moved by the ‘usual time’, only applies if there are pre-existing parking restrictions. If there were no parking restrictions on your street prior to the new temporary road changes, then you only need to ensure your car faces the correct direction when parked on Wednesday night.

Important: If you park your vehicle on any of the new one-way streets overnight from Wednesday 17th June, please park your car facing the way of the directional arrow on the map and ensure its removed by the usual time of 0900hrs.

Q.  Is it true that this means the High Street in Burnham will be pedestrianised indefinitely?

A. These changes are temporary and only apply to enable people to follow the Government’s social distancing rules as the High Street re-opens.

Q. Why is the pedestrianisation happening when businesses will lose trade if people can’t park outside the shops?

A. The Government has advised local authorities to make appropriate changes to local roads to help with social distancing for pedestrians.

Burnham-on-Sea town centre has high footfall on narrow paths, especially during the summer tourist season. Ensuring the safety of customers returning to the Town Centre is important to restarting the local economy. Even with appropriate signage, queues outside shops will conflict with passing pedestrians, bringing them into close contact with each other or causing them to step into the road to maintain safe distance. Pedestrianisation of the High Street will allow more, safer space for people to shop whilst we are still at risk from Coronavirus.

Q. Will businesses get a reduction in business rates?

A. Business rates are set and collected by Sedgemoor District Council and not by this Town Council. You can contact Sedgemoor District council by email: customer.services@sedgemoor.gov.uk

Q. I am disabled and use a Blue Badge for parking outside shops, where can I park?

A. Disabled parking is still available at Cross Street, Adam Street and all other existing designated spaces in town. None are being lost.

The Town Council has appointed street marshals to work on the High Street in order to assist people who require help. The marshals will be sited close to High Street road junctions wearing Street Marshall/Warden hi viz tabards, they will be pleased to assist you. 

Q. I didn’t know these changes were going to happen, why weren’t we consulted?

A. In order to keep people safe from Coronavirus, the Government has advised local authorities to make appropriate changes to roads to help with social distancing for pedestrians.

We appreciate that these emergency changes have been made very fast and we would have liked longer to react to them and to consult with people.

The Town Council has been seeking comments and talking about how possible changes might affect Burnham. This is not a straightforward process and includes decisions and budgets from three different councils, with information released to us all at unpredictable rates. We have met with Sedgemoor District Council and Somerset County Council (the Highways Authority who take the decisions & carry out the road changes), as well as the Chambers of Trade and we have issued media releases seeking comments. Town, District and County Councillors have been accessible to their ward members to receive feedback.

We know that some people believe hard copy letters should have been delivered to all properties earlier than 16th June (the date they were delivered) and we will keep this feedback in mind and learn from it should we face another emergency situation in the future.

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