St Albans district prepares for lifting of lockdown measures - but are parking restrictions going to hit businesses?
- Credit: Archant
The first steps towards a post-lockdown St Albans city centre are beginning to take shape.
This week saw Herts county council close of High Street, Market Place and George Street to traffic in order to support social distancing as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are relaxed.
This process is taking place without normal consultation procedures as a direct result of the public health crisis and the problems posed by re-opening shops and other customer-facing premises.
County council officers are emphasising that this will be a ‘dynamic’ process and that they will welcome all feedback on how it does or does not work so adjustments can be made as necessary.
But parking restrictions introduced in Hatfield Road to allow for greater social distancing have been slated for their impact on local businesses.
Abdul Kaher of Asian Food Stores told the Adda Club community newsletter: ”I understand the social distancing and protecting the community but I don’t think the plan has been well thought through. We were not consulted or told about the planned parking suspension, which means also means we can not take deliveries in for our store. I have been trying to get the council on the phone but have not been able to get a straight answer, this will have a major negative affect on the business, my customers and the local residents.”
St Albans BID has also introduced the new Community Hubs initiative to help retailers provide a new service to the community in the relative safety of the outdoors.
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The scheme is running in partnership with the COVID 19 Business Recovery Team at St Albans district council (SADC), which has granted licences to allow small businesses, artisans and market traders to trade at Community Hubs at closed car parks and pub and hotel gardens, or in the future, at community centres, faith group car parks and other similar spaces across the district.
The licence will allow for up to three stalls per hub, selling food, drink and essential household items, with social distancing and contactless payments only, for up to six weeks.
It is hoped that local people will support independent businesses by walking to their nearest hub rather than going to a large supermarket for their essential goods and last minute shopping.
Sean Hughes, co-chair of the St Albans Independent Hospitality and Retail Association said: “We hope that the Community Hubs, including Pub Hubs, will become semi-permanent artisan/farmers’ markets, with more stalls added when government guidance relaxes.”
St Albans Charter Market traders including Papa Paella and Hannah Sessions and small hospitality businesses and artisans, like Waddington Street Café will have slots at the new hubs. This will help to ease social distancing pressures in the city centre while enabling residents to still support their local outlets.
The BID is currently working with SADC and HCC through Cllr Chris White and Cllr Mandy McNeil to take the concept further and turn St Albans ‘Inside Out’.
Sean added: “We are also hoping that local government and central government will support a ‘St Albans Inside Out’ initiative: this would allow for pop-up pubs, cafés and restaurants to operate sooner, spread across the city centre and district, and for our small retailers to be able to join in an open-air Borough Market style offering. This will give our independent businesses, many of which have lost most or all of their income, a chance of making it through the summer.”
Community Hubs are currently trading at The Portland Arms with Waddington Street Café, The Great Northern, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, The White Horse in London Colney with Papa Paella, The Mermaid with Peddling Pizza and The White Lion.
BID co-chair Sarah Gillow said: “We wanted to find a way to support local businesses during lockdown that followed government guidelines but gave them an opportunity to trade safely. With summer on its way, a community hub seemed like a brilliant opportunity to trade outside in the fresh air and we are really grateful to the SADC licensing team for their innovation and timely support which enabled this initiative to happen.”
Application forms and other help for businesses during COVID19 can be found http://www.enjoystalbans.co.uk/offers