Chester is getting ready to see the re-opening of more shops and welcoming the return of shoppers.

Following the announcement by the Government of the next phase of re-opening businesses, plans are being put in place to ensure that the return of more shops and visitors to the City is a safe and enjoyable experience.

Since the lockdown in March, around 50 businesses in Chester have remained open, as essential businesses. It is anticipated that 200 business could reopen their doors next week.

The COVID-19 virus hasn’t gone away, and the businesses will be reopening in a very different high street with safety being essential.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has been working with partners to prepare Chester for its next phase of reopening. What will the city look like for the next phase of tackling the virus?

Northgate Street saw the first of the pop-up measures this week as the pavement was widened from George Street to Abbey Square to provide more space for pedestrians.

Entry to the city will be different. Government guidance is to only use public transport where necessary, bus services over the past few months have been reduced and are slowly returning. Chester’s Park and Ride service is not currently operating but is being reviewed for when it is safe to return.

As a reminder Government guidance is that face masks will be compulsory for passengers using public transport from next week.

Cycling has seen a welcome increase and following the governments indicative allocations of emergency active travel funds, the Council is asking for suggestions from communities before introducing new measures that could include pop up cycle routes into the city and additional cycle stands. This started with a ‘walk, cycle, thrive’ hack led by the Good for Nothing group last week.

The safety of visitors to the City is a priority and as such the following measure are being put in place:

  • New signs have been brought into Chester as a reminder that social distancing of two metres is still in place. To help maintain social distancing and provide safe areas for pedestrians to queue at shops there will be road closures from 10.30am to 4.30pm on Frodsham Street, Foregate Street, Eastgate Street and St John Street. During the pedestrian times, queuing will be alongside shops using the pavement. Pedestrians can use the road area and are recommended to keep to the left side when walking. A one-way system will be introduced for Chester’s Rows starting on Monday 15 June as there is less space to observe safe distancing. Shoppers are asked to follow the signs. The Rows were never built to allow for two metre social distancing, there will be visitors who can’t use the one-way system so consideration is asked.
  • From 15 June St Werburgh Street will be closed to all traffic as security bollards are installed. Access will remain for blue badge drivers at Kaleyards.
  • The 24 hour taxi rank on Foregate Street (south side) will also be relocated between a point 39 metres west of the centre line of its junction with Love Street and a point 20 metres west of the west side of Bath Street.
  • Chester will have a multi-agency welcome team in the city centre offering guidance and reassurance from the 15 June. The team will be a first point of contact to help members of the public. With access to information from the CCTV cameras, practical advice will be available for information about queue lengths and where needed helping with queues and helping with social distancing. The Team will support the CH1ChesterBID City Hosts Monica and Luka whilst the city gets used to the new way of visiting and working. Maintaining a safe and welcoming city centre is their priority.
  • City centre streets are being deep cleaned at present using new jet washing and steam cleaning equipment and this will continue through the summer.
  • The street cleaning teams will be working to slightly different this means the teams will be visible during the day.

The new electric street-cleansing machines introduced in April are proving to be very effective, they are being used across the city removing ingrained dirt from pavement surfaces.

The advice from the Government is still to wash hands regularly and particularly after being out of the house. If visitors feel the need to use hand sanitisers, then please either bring your own or use the hand sanitisers provided at store entrances or at Chester bus interchange and Chester Market entrances.

The accessible toilet facility and the changing places facility at the Chester Bus Interchange have remained available throughout.

Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, said: “We have seen the reopening of garden centres and car showrooms, also more take away food businesses. Next week sees the next phase, we don’t know how busy Chester will be, the virus is still with us. I’m asking all visitors to the city centre to follow the guidance, we want to see businesses open but to also protect staff in the shops and visitors alike.

“The measures we are introducing will rely on the co-operation of everyone. We must do everything we can to reduce the chances of a second wave. We will continue to work with all our partners across the Borough to support businesses to re-open with customer safety as a top priority.”

Carl Critchlow, CH1ChesterBID Manger said: ‘We’ve been so heartened by the support the city has been shown by the public during lock down. People have purposefully chosen to bolster our city centre businesses by choosing them for essential shopping, take away food and online deliveries.

“As the restrictions start to ease and the city gets busier, it’s important that we keep visitors safe – and provide them with as much information as possible to make their experience as enjoyable as possible. It’s essential for visitors to plan their visit, including transportation options, parking and working out their route around the city. We’d also recommend wearing a mask, carrying hand sanitiser and bringing a contact-less form of payment too”.

Chester Indoor Market has remained open for essential goods and is looking forward to being able to welcome back more traders next week. In line with the guidance and for customer and trader’s safety, the number of customers entering the market will be monitored. Floor markings and posters will remind customers to maintain social distancing. Customers will be encouraged to use the hand sanitisers provided when entering and leaving the market.

All food and drink sales will be for takeaway only and not for consumption inside the market. Many of the traders provide collection and home delivery services, they can be contacted directly.