High Street reopening set to boost Southend economy

Re-opening the High Street is set to bring back jobs and boost the economy after almost two months of lockdown.

Southend Council’s deputy leader Councillor Ron Woodley has spoken enthusiastically about the re-opening of the town’s high Street which is expected to happen on June 15.

Mr Woodley said for many residents it will mean their jobs are more secure and they will no long need to be paid through the furlough scheme.

He said: “This is a positive sign. It means jobs will be coming back and people will be earning a salary – they will no longer need to be paid through the furlough scheme.

“The economic base is beginning to get back to some kind of normality and that is the key message here, having these shops and businesses re-open shows things are starting to go back to normal and that means economic benefits for residents.”

All non-essential shops are expected to re-open from the middle of the month. The full details of the council’s plan for the High Street are expected to be unveiled next week but early conversations suggest shopping will be a very different experience to the one we are used to.

Joan Tiney, chair of the Seafront Traders Association, has been part of the council’s stakeholder meetings, which focus on how to handle the easing of the lockdown.

She explained that conversations have centred around introducing one-way systems on each side of the road, as well as hand sanitising stations.

Meanwhile, businesses are to be given leaflets that explain the kinds of changes they need to make in to comply with social distancing.

Despite two hours queues being seen outside at places like McDonalds and IKEA, Ms Tiney was unsure it would be the same for the re-opening of the High Street.

“I can’t see many people browsing in the shops, who would want to queue up ten times, they will be more likely to only go to the ones they want to go to,” she said.

She also questioned how well queuing system can work outside shops because if it does become busy, many could end up “intermingling” with each other.

Cllr Kevin Robinson, who oversees business, leisure and tourism, said: “With wider shop reopening expected on 15 June, the council has been working at a fast pace and with a variety of stakeholders including Southend BID and representatives from all of our different areas to help ensure relevant plans and measures are in place to enable people to shop safely.

“A one size fits all approach will not work because all of our areas have different challenges and that is why a wide group is involved in this work.

“Whilst there will be a consistent approach to messaging, signage and guidance for businesses for example, different areas will need different measures and approaches for queue management and parking for example.

“Plans and the finer detail are being finalised at the moment, and more will be announced next week and as we approach June 15.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter