How have social distancing measures changed Hitchin’s town centre?
- Credit: Colin Johnson
New social distancing measures were put in place in Hitchin to ensure the public’s safety this week, but some residents are concerned these measures could negatively impact the town’s beloved high streets.
The county council has been implementing temporary safety measures in Hitchin and other towns across Hertfordshire since Tuesday, as part of a Public Health initiative to ensure social distancing is adhered to once businesses start reopening.
Businesses across Hertfordshire are expected to be phased back, led by public health guidance, as the county council observes the results of the easing of government restrictions in Hitchin and further afield.
Footpaths have been widened in the town centre to allow pedestrians to stay 2m apart more easily, and some parking and loading bays in High Street, Sun Street and Market Place have had to be suspended as part of the new social distancing plans.
But the new measures, implemented by Herts County Council’s Highways division, have not been received positively by all.
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Some residents have asked how businesses will be able to unload deliveries without blocking the socially distanced footpaths, or how parking shortages in the centre may affect footfall.
In response, Cllr Derrick Ashley, county councillor for Hitchin South, said: “As we try to deliver social distancing measures in the town I am trying to ensure there is ongoing dialogue between HCC highways, NHDC enforcement and local businesses to ensure we have something workable in place by the time most shops reopen.”
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It is expected that local businesses and councillors will discuss how these measures can be less intrusive for locals, and changes could come as soon as next week.
Tom Hardy, Hitchin town centre manager, said: “I support the public using the town centre safely but also in support of businesses being able to operate and access loading bays in the town for deliveries.
“We are working with Highways to change the closures to make it easier for businesses to operate and allow social distancing.”
Cllr Phil Bibby, cabinet member for highways and environment, said: “The safety and security of those who live and work in Hertfordshire is a top priority for us at Hertfordshire County Council.
“We are working closely with our public health partners to ensure we have the right measures in place to allow people to safely go about their business in town centres and enable them to socially distance as they do so.”
A spokeswoman from the county council said although there was no specified end date for these temporary measures, government and public health advice will dictate when they can be removed from Hitchin town centre.