Ashford town centre: reopening and keeping people safePosted on 4 September 2020
As town centres across the country continue to reopen, it is very much a gradual process in order to keep people safe. That is certainly the story in Ashford, which has seen a steady increase in footfall over the last couple of months. Ashford Borough Council has implemented increased health and safety measures, along with informative signage to ensure visitors adhere to government Covid-19 guidelines.
Back in March when people were encouraged to stay at home and businesses were told to shut, there was a significant drop in footfall on the Ashford high street, which was only open for essential businesses.
The resourcefulness and adaptability of Ashford town centre businesses soon came out when they started to pivot to suit their new circumstances. For example, Stag Coffee started to offer home delivery groceries, Salata launching a takeaway service and Macknade now offering more outdoor seating. New businesses have also opened in the town centre during this period including Valerie’s Wine Bar and Rewind Bar, with German kitchen manufacturer, Kutchenhaus set to open in September.
Ashford Borough Council has worked with the environmental health officers to facilitate meetings with town centre businesses. Officers have advised businesses and ensured they have the correct measures in place, including floor markings to support social distancing and reduced opening times to allow for regular cleaning.
Park Mall and Elwick Place, which are owned by Ashford Borough Council, have implemented a one-way system to encourage social distancing. Similarly, County Square has a system which monitors the footfall at the shopping centre to ensure it doesn’t exceed social distancing capacity.
Food and drink businesses have faced additional challenges due to limitations of takeaway service and the reduced number of people they can accommodate inside the establishments. To address this, it is now easier to apply for pavement licences, with quicker turnaround and cheaper application costs beneficial to town centre hospitality businesses.
“We want people to feel comfortable when they are visiting Ashford, so sharing this information is extremely important.”Hannah Clayton-Peck, Town Centre Regeneration Manager at Ashford Borough Council
Hannah Clayton-Peck, Town Centre Regeneration Manager at Ashford Borough Council, said: “These have certainly been trying times for our town centre businesses, but it’s been fantastic to see how positive everyone has been. Businesses are working with us and Environmental Health Officers to ensure they have everything in place to keep their staff and customers safe.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, Ashford Borough Council has very much been promoting a health and safety message to increase awareness of the measures in place in the town centre. We want people to feel comfortable when they are visiting Ashford, so sharing this information is extremely important.”
In July, footfall was down 42.1% a year to date in Ashford, but up 41.4% month on month. This represents a steady increase, meaning businesses can operate while avoiding any major issues with overcrowding.
Hannah continues: “There’s no denying that the reduced footfall brought on by the pandemic is having an impact on businesses in Ashford. That said, it is important to strike a balance so that people can visit shops, cafés, restaurants and bars in the town centre safely.”