Town centres prepare to welcome people back safely
Town centres across Stockton-on-Tees are gearing up to give a safe welcome to shoppers and visitors with more businesses set to reopen their doors from Monday (12 April).
Teams from across the Council's services have been working with local businesses to provide practical advice and support to ensure they have measures in place to keep themselves and their customers safe.
Sarah Bowman-Abouna, Director of Public Health for Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: "Although infection rates have been falling and the vaccination programme is going well, the threat of COVID transmission is still very real and we all must remember that as we move through the easing of lockdown.
"I have written to our reopening businesses to remind them of their responsibilities to be a COVID-secure place and offered a range of guidance on things like better ventilation indoors, queue management systems and training for staff.
"We're looking forward to welcoming shoppers, visitors and workers back to Billingham, Ingleby Barwick, Norton, Stockton, Thornaby and Yarm in the safest possible way.
"When you are in our town centres please remember the key messages of wearing a face covering in indoor spaces, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands regularly.
"This is important even if you have had the vaccine - you are still at risk of contracting the virus or passing it on to others, as the vaccine is still being rolled out across the population.
"If you have a temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, you should not use the shops or other facilities and should stay in your home for ten days and book a test straight away."
What is being done to encourage safe visits to the Borough's town centres?
- COVID Marshals are on-hand to offer any guidance and support to members of the public and businesses on staying safe
- The Licensing service are processing a number of 'pavement licences' which are intended to allow businesses to serve food and drink in their outdoor spaces
- The Public Health team have produced a working safety during Covid-19 webinar
- Signage will be visible in all town centres to remind everyone of the key safety messages: wear a face covering indoors, maintain social distancing and wash your hands to prevent transmission
- Free parking, for up to three hours, in Council-run short stay parking areas in Stockton and on Yarm High Street
- Our Business Support team are continuing to provide information about Help for businesses available during the pandemic, including 'restart' grants for those who are preparing to reopen in line with the lifting of Government restrictions
How are local businesses feeling ahead of reopening?
The Council has worked with and provided practical support and advice for businesses across the Borough including in Billingham, Ingleby Barwick and Thornaby throughout the pandemic.
We asked a handful of local business leaders in Norton, Stockton and Yarm for their thoughts as they prepare for next week's changes.
Reverend Martin Anderson, Chair of Norton Business Group and Community Partnership, said: "From the redevelopment of the old bank to the regeneration of the Forge eco-enterprise, there are a plethora of new places to shop and eat.
"Pavement licences have been granted to allow some of Norton's bars and cafes to thrive outdoors, long-awaited hair appointments are in great demand, and the economic and cultural renaissance of Norton is bursting into life once more!
"Norton Business Forum and Community Partnership are working hard alongside the Council to develop new events in the year ahead, with our business owners equally committed to ensuring Norton is a great place to live, work and visit."
Jason Maxwell, Stockton Business Improvement District (BID) Manager, said: "COVID continues to hit every aspect of our lives and livelihoods but our businesses can't wait to be able to welcome back their customers.
"Keeping everyone safe is as important as ever but what the pandemic has also shown is that we need to act and invest in our local businesses in the future.
"We have some amazing businesses right here on our doorstep in Stockton, they have looked at really innovative ways of responding during such testing times and we encourage everyone to come and take a look at what the town has to offer."
Paddy Morton, Chair of Yarm Business Forum, said: "Yarm businesses can't wait to welcome back their customers.
"There's three hours of free parking on the high street and plenty of new alfresco dining options to enjoy in the sunshine.
"Whether you are looking forward to shopping, a haircut, manicure or massage, Yarm High Street has it all."
To celebrate the reopening of retail, hair and beauty businesses, "VisitYarm" on Facebook are giving people the chance to win a £50 voucher.
I've got a business - where can I get advice and support?
Any business in need of any advice or support can contact the Council's Business and Enterprise Team on 01642 528384.
For more information on the Council's support for residents and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit Our People.