Darlington Borough Council will work hard to help the town centre get back on its feet while keeping visitors safe as lockdown rules are relaxed, senior councillors have pledged.
A number of measures are to be introduced to the town centre to ensure people can move about safely and shop with confidence in the weeks and months to come.
The changes in Darlington town centre, which will come into force on June 1, the proposed date for the further relaxation of the lockdown by the Government, will include:
- Social distancing markers and guidance will be placed around the town centre to assist people with safely queueing for shops and buses, avoiding narrow pinchpoints and ensuring that access is maintained for all;
- On street parking bays will be temporarily suspended in Grange Road, Northumberland Street and Duke Street to create space for pedestrians and shoppers to keep their distance. Parking in all council-run car parks and on-street bays will remain free;
- The outdoor market will be moved to the Market Square on Mondays and Saturdays to allow plenty of space around individual stalls and to prevent bottlenecks on Northgate and High Row;
- There will be a number of changes to bus stops around the town centre, which will be communicated in full via notices on bus stops and on social media.
These measures are the first in a long-term plan to get Darlington town centre to its ‘new normal’ as far as possible in the coming weeks and months. The changes were made following independent advice and follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing.
The situation will be monitored to ensure that everything put in place is working and changes will be made where necessary.
Councillor Alan Marshall, cabinet member for economy, said: “The phrase ‘new normal’ has been used a lot in this country in recent weeks but that is our aim for Darlington – things may have changed but we want to get back on our feet and make sure people can use our shops and services much as they did before.
“While the need for social distancing and attention to hygiene will be at the forefront of our minds, we believe a few small changes can make a big difference – making sure there is enough space for people to safely pass each other, removing bottlenecks and managing areas where people would naturally gather, such as bus stops.
“Our traders, like all of us, have been through a rough ride during this pandemic and I would urge people to shop locally where possible – spend your money in Darlington, support our town centre and help us to rebuild.”
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “These are unprecedented times and we know that from June 1 we can’t simply go back to the way things were before lockdown.
“Our main aim in these early weeks is to ensure those people that need and want to visit the town centre can do so safely, managing the risks as far as we can.
“Staff from across the council have been involved in the planning of these measures and we have liaised with business owners and representatives across the town centre, which we will continue to do, to make sure what we put in place works for everyone.
“Businesses across the town have shown great resilience throughout lockdown, including a number that have changed the way they work at impressive speed to offer a delivery service, and I know we can all make the most of that ingenuity to succeed.”