Welcome back to a return to ‘normal’
25 March 2021
…will this really provide the support and impetus that local communities up and down the country require to properly pick themselves up again as we come out of lockdown, or will it just be ‘a drop in the ocean’?
Alan Williams Associate Director Bristol
I look forward to starting a return to ‘normal’ soon, including meeting up with friends and family, and making plans for ‘staycations’. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, has announced a package of support to provide a stimulus for local economies, businesses and communities, and to support the safe and successful reopening of our high streets and seaside resorts.
A new ‘Welcome Back Fund’ totalling £56 million could help local authorities to boost their local economies (including tourism), improve local environments to make them more attractive, provide more outdoor seating areas to allow people to meet up with friends and family safely, and encourage more local facilities (including markets and pop-up stalls).
It is understood that part of this fund will be allocated specifically to support all coastal areas across England, in order to welcome back and encourage holiday makers to return to holiday resorts safely. Some specific examples of what councils could use the Fund for include:
- Improving the look and feel of their high streets making them as welcoming as possible
- Carry out publicity campaigns
- Host street markets and other festivals to provide opportunities for local businesses to operate
Robert Jenrick has also announced the first 70 councils that could benefit from the knowledge and experience of the High Streets Task Force, providing targeted, hands-on support and advice on how High Streets should be adapted to meet and future proof against the ever-changing consumer demands and requirements, so that they can thrive again.
In addition, businesses such as pubs and restaurants will be allowed to install marquees and provide more outdoor seating space, giving them the ability to serve more customers safely as restrictions ease. This includes where the business operates within a Listed Building. Furthermore, these additional facilities will be allowed to stay in place for “the whole of the summer” rather than the current 28 day period that is permitted for temporary facilities.
While I fully appreciate that this ‘Welcome Back Fund’ is part a wider set of measures to support businesses and communities as restrictions ease, the question I find myself asking is whether this will really provide the support and impetus that local communities up and down the country require to properly pick themselves up again as we come out of lockdown, or will it just be ‘a drop in the ocean’?
Clearly this announcement will be welcomed by many, providing the boost that so many areas need, and giving platforms for businesses to trade and make up for lost time. With so many people itching to get out and about, cynics might say that this would have happened anyway with the scale of pent-up demand that appears to exist, and Government should be focusing more on the longer term recovery rather than a ‘quick fix’.
Time will obviously tell, but in the meantime, I for one look forward to meeting up with friends and family soon, hopefully having ‘staycations’, and supporting the recovery that local businesses and communities so desperately need.