WATCH: What does Bury St Edmunds town centre look like ahead of reopening?
- Credit: Archant
There is a hive of activity in Bury St Edmunds town centre as final preparations are underway for businesses reopening on Monday, June 15.
The usually bustling centre has been quiet during the coronavirus lockdown, but is in the final stage of getting ready to welcome more shoppers back safely as restrictions are eased further.
Individual businesses are hard at work finalising signage and social distancing measures at their stores, such as Hotel Chocolat at the Arc shopping centre and the Parsley Pot gift store in Abbeygate Street.
And West Suffolk Council, the BID (Business Improvement District) group and Arc shopping centre management have all been working to make sure it is as safe as possible for workers and shoppers.
Measures include social distancing markers on pavements, signs and hand sanitiser stations.
MORE: How shopping in Bury St Edmunds will be different after lockdownYesterday, there was fresh paint on the ground to help with distancing at the ticket machines at the Arc surface car park, next to the modern Arc shopping centre, and this weekend the two walkways that connect the old and new shopping areas will each be made one way.
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Mark Cordell, chief executive of Ourburystedmunds BID, said: “I have been involved in productive discussions with West Suffolk Council over recent weeks about ensuring we take actions that demonstrate to the public that Bury St Edmunds is a safe place to visit.
“The BID has contributed to this objective and have paid for and placed around the town information signs and pavement distancing strips. At the same time our businesses have been reopening and planning to reopen from Monday by introducing safety and hygiene measures to ensure that their staff and customers can safely visit their businesses.
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“I am confident that potential customers will feel reassured and will be happy, once again, to support our local businesses.”
Arc shopping centre stores that have confirmed they are reopening on Monday include Debenhams, H&M, Pandora, Peacocks, Superdry and River Island.
MORE: H&M, Superdry and Debenhams among 7 stores to reopen at Arc shopping centreSam Parker, Arc centre administrator, said: “We would like to thank our staff and retailers who are all working extremely hard in very challenging and unprecedented circumstances. In these uncertain times we look forward to welcoming the public back to Arc, but we recognise the right time will be different for everyone.
“So, when the time is right is for you, we are ready for you. Be patient, be kind, be responsible.”
Mike Kirkham, business support and marketing officer at the BID, echoed the “be patient, be kind” message.
“All businesses are doing as much as they can. It’s a case of we need people to help businesses help them stay safe and I think it’s important to understand the pressures businesses have been under,” he said.
MORE: ‘Such a shame’: Garden centre forced to close due to poor trading conditionsNail Imam, manager of Café Kottani, which will still be providing just takeaway until they can have sit-in customers, said business had been “hard” during lockdown and is concerned their customer base of older people may not initially return.
“We never did just takeaway, we were mostly eating and drinking and had all these tables. The regulars don’t come any more or don’t come as much. We had elderly people visiting us a lot and now they are scared and don’t want to come.”
But shoppers we spoke to, who were aged between 62 and 75, were all looking forward to more shops opening on Monday.
“I will just have to be more careful,” said Sandra Hemingway, from Bury. “I shall look forward to it.”
Pat Claydon, also from Bury, said: “I live alone. I have been shut in. I’m really looking forward to getting back and seeing people. You have got to be careful and keep your distance.”
For her, she has always preferred to go to the shops rather than do it online.
Her friend Wendy Hines, who has been popping into town for essentials during lockdown, said people just needed to be careful when they came to shop.
“Not everyone keeps their distance,” she added.
Car parking charges are to be reinstated across west Suffolk from Monday, June 15, to manage demand for spaces.