With more shops planning to reopen later this month, North Devon Council, together with Barnstaple Town Centre Management and town councils, is putting plans in place to allow residents to visit the town centres safely.

Following the Government's announcement that non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen on Monday 15 June, signs are being displayed around North Devon town centres to remind those visiting high streets and shopping areas to keep their distance from others, in an effort to control COVID-19. 

All businesses wishing to reopen have been required by central government to carry out a risk assessment to make sure that social distancing and other safety recommendations are implemented. Only businesses that have completed this process can reopen, giving confidence to shoppers that public safety is being taken very seriously by every high street operator.

The updated government guidance takes into account the best practice demonstrated by the many retailers that were allowed to remain open, and successfully applied social distancing measures in their stores. Measures that shops have been required to consider include:

  • placing a poster in their windows to demonstrate awareness of the guidance and commitment to safety measures
  • storing returned items for 72 hours before putting them back out on the shop floor
  • placing protective coverings on large items touched by the public such as beds or sofas
  • frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, including self-checkouts, trolleys, coffee machines and betting terminals, for example

To reinforce this approach to town centre safety, the council is also introducing a temporary 'Keep Left' system on the busier streets. It is also exploring a number of other measures, which may be brought in over the coming weeks. These include hand sanitising stations and stewards on hand to offer information and friendly reminders to shoppers to keep their distance from each other. Neither councils nor the police can enforce social distancing measures, so all steps are designed to encourage people to take personal responsibility.

Signage has already been installed in the areas expected to be busiest once shops reopen, including the main town centres of Barnstaple and Ilfracombe, with more being rolled out in local shopping areas as well as key leisure locations throughout the coming weeks.

Cllr Malcolm Prowse, lead member for Economic Development and Regeneration said, “We have been very fortunate in North Devon to have seen relatively low levels of infection from the virus and we will do what we can to keep it that way. But it's also important that, with safeguards in place, we take the next steps towards restoring people's livelihoods, and restarting our economy. We hope the measures we are taking will give our residents the confidence to visit their preferred shopping area again, taking the opportunity to support local businesses by shopping local and enjoy some much-missed retail therapy.” 

"We all need to take responsibility to follow social distancing guidelines and we hope that by putting measures in place, we will make it as easy and safe as possible for people to return and support their local high streets. We will continue to review the measures and may introduce more if required."

In line with non-essential retail businesses reopening, car parking charges will be reintroduced in the town centre car parks from 15 June, with available payment options being contactless card payments or the RingGo parking app. The 20 pence additional charge has been removed from RingGo, the council’s online car parking payment system, and the minimum three hour stay for contactless payments has also been removed. 

The Cattle Market toilets will also be reopening and some individual businesses may provide limited toilet facilities for the disabled, elderly people and children. 

Residents can stay up-to-date with the council's plans to reopen town centres on the council's website and Facebook page