With many local retailers set to reopen from Monday (June 15) there’s lots of activity going on in our main shopping areas of Wokingham town centre, Woodley and Twyford to make sure they can open safely.
Working closely with our local town and parish councils, as well as Wokingham Business Association, Woodley’s town centre manager, and Twyford Together, the council is offering a range of activities and resources to support our shops and businesses to open safely whilst still adhering to the latest government guidance such as social distancing and safe queuing.
Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business and economic development, said: “It’s great to see our local businesses start to reopen again as they are such an important part of our local community. By shopping local, whether in one of our great independent stores or in our local markets, you are helping our businesses to survive and thrive.
“We have been working with our business community throughout the pandemic to support them by distributing £17.3million in grants and £17.5million in business rates relief. Now, that non-essential shops are allowed to open from next week, we are working hard to support our town centre businesses welcome residents back onto our high streets in a safe way.
“But it’s incredibly important that people continue to observe the rules and follow advice on how to shop safely. Everyone must take responsibility, respecting the people around them and the place they are in. We need to make sure we limit the risk of infection spreading as, if a local outbreak occurs, there is a risk that a localised lockdown may return. This is something we can all agree no one wants to see happen.”
Key changes taking place around the main shopping areas of Wokingham town centre, Woodley and Twyford include:
Clear signage across the towns to make sure people remember the importance of requirements such as the social distancing rule, sanitizing hands and queuing safely
Increased marketing and social media campaigns to keep shoppers and businesses up to date with useful information and latest updates
Temporary changes to local roads and footways to help maximise space for pedestrians and manage movement safely
Clearly marked areas for queuing outside shops
Support packs for local retailers and businesses including a range of useful resources, such as posters, signs and floor stickers to help encourage safe distancing
Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways and transport, said: “Whilst we know some of the changes may seem strange at first, we know from our discussions with residents and businesses that creating safe spaces is incredibly important to everyone. All the changes being made are temporary, and we will continue to monitor them over the coming months and adapt them as required.
“Initially we will be realigning the roads in Wokingham town centre, reducing Peach Street, Rectory Road and Wiltshire Road down to one lane and creating wider pedestrian footways along Broad Street and Rose Street. A new 20mph speed limit will also be in place in the town centre. This will enable us to give people in the town centre the safe space they need to access the town, circulate and queue near shops. We will be retaining as much on street parking as possible in the town centre but, in some locations such as along Peach Street, this will not be possible except for loading and unloading and for blue badge holders.”
Works in Wokingham town centre will start tonight (Thursday 11 June) and will continue over the weekend to ensure they are ready for when the businesses reopen on Monday 15.
Other changes in Wokingham town centre include the introduction of a 20mph speed limit and changes to existing signalised crossings which will now be activated by sensors so people waiting to cross no longer need to push the button for them to change. Additional pedestrian crossings, or crossover points will also be established to help pedestrians navigate the town.
Cllr Jorgensen continued: “In the next phase we will be rolling out further changes along roads and footways such as Denmark Street in Wokingham town centre. Further works to Wokingham town centre are expected to start at the end of July, in time for the summer holiday period
“We are not currently proposing changes to the roads or footways in Woodley or Twyford at this time but are continuing to work closely with them to monitor the shopping areas and will take action if required. We will continue to keep resident’s updated if there are any changes.
“But it’s not just about our main retail areas as we want to make sure our shops and businesses are supported across the borough. Many of the ideas and improvements agreed for Wokingham town centre, Woodley and Twyford are applicable to all our retail businesses and we’re keen to work with them to offer support where we can.”
Retailers in Wokingham town centre, Woodley and Twyford will be contacted directly to organise access to support packs. Retailers outside of these areas, but interested in finding out more should contact Economicdevelopment@wokingham.gov.uk
Funding towards these activities is coming from the European Regional Development Fund which helps local areas stimulate their economic development.