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Shoppers return to Surrey and Hampshire's town centres as stores reopen

8 minute read
Shoppers return to Surrey and Hampshire's town centres as stores reopen

Published by Lettie Buxton at 5:48pm 15th June 2020. (Updated at 10:11am 16th June 2020)

People have been making their way back into non-essential shops across Surrey and Hampshire today (15 June), as lockdown restrictions are eased.

It is the first time stores have opened their doors in nearly three months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Several safety measures are in place, including socially distanced queuing, one way systems and hand sanitiser stations.

According to Eagle Radio's Peter Gordon, Guildford was "moderately" busy in parts of the town, with barriers in places to help with some queues and widened pavements for social distancing.

Guildford 6
Guildford 2

According to Guildford Borough Council, a range of other new measures are also in place in the town centre, including:

  • High Street: Pedestrians only 10am to 6pm, with queue barriers outside key retailers.
  • Tunsgate: Pedestrians only 10am to 1am.
  • Lower High Street (Vision Express side) and Upper High Street (KFC side): Suspended parking bays to create widened footpaths.
  • Keep left on Chapel Street, Swan Lane, Phoenix Court, Jeffries Passage, Angel Gate and The Shambles.
  • Milkhouse Gate: No access from High Street - enter via Tunsgate instead.

New wall and floor signs have been installed to help, along with a map to illustrate these changes.

Experience Guildford High Street map

Lead councillor for economic development, social enterprise, rural economy, heritage and community assets at the borough council, John Redpath said they are pleased to welcome residents and visitors back into the town:

"We are working with Experience Guildford and with the help of both Surrey County Council and our town centre partners are doing everything we can to make sure we can all enjoy the experience of the new way to shop.

"Our new measures to aid social distancing are designed to create the most reassuring environment possible, but we must still follow government guidance on social distancing and keep washing our hands in order to minimise the spread of the virus.

"This has been a hugely challenging time for everyone, and as a council we continue to do all we can to support our residents and local economy.

"Our town centre car parks remain free for the rest of June, with Farnham Road car park also free of charge during July to help support our key workers.

"We’ve paid grants on 1,516 properties of over £20m, we have promoted the discretionary grants scheme which closes today, and we’ve provided business rate holidays."

Meanwhile chief executive of Experience Guildford, Amanda Masters confirmed the town centre has bee "quite bustling since this morning":

"All shoppers and staff seem to be in good spirits and glad to be back.

"People are being respectful of the measures put in place by the council and Experience Guildford.

"We know that as more shops open in the coming days we will have to keep monitoring the situation, but are confident we can move quickly if measures need to be adapted.

"We hope that shoppers will continue to be cautious, calm, and kind.

"This is new to all of us, so would encourage anybody who has any concerns to take the time to talk to staff, business owners or our town rangers, who may be able to put your mind at ease."

Guildford 4
Guildford 8
Guildford 5

In Camberley, the town is said to have been busier than it has been during lockdown, with people respecting social distancing.

A spokesperson for Surrey Heath Borough Council said Primark, TX Maxx, H&M, Sports Direct and Sainsbury’s are "popular but have well managed queuing systems in place".

Car parking remains free in Main Square and The Atrium, and pavements have been widened surrounding the improvement works in The High Street and Princess Way.

Camberley 5 Surrey Heath Borough Council
Camberley 3 Surrey Heath Borough Council
Camberley 6 Surrey Heath Borough Council

East Hampshire District Council has enlisted high street helpers to offer help and advice to shoppers and keep an eye out for any safety risks.

They have also put up signage around the district to remind shoppers to:

  • Wear a face covering in enclosed spaces or where social distancing isn’t possible.
  • Always keep a minimum of two metres (six feet) apart and avoid blocking the path.
  • Wash hands before and after shopping – and consider carrying hand sanitiser.

Councillor Robert Mocatta, portfolio holder for community development, placemaking and infrastructure, told Eagle Radio about how it had been going:

"I believe it's been quite busy.

"In the high streets of both Alton and Petersfield there have been significant numbers of shops that have opened today that did not open last week.

"I think they [residents] have to think about safety, they have to think that the shops are putting in place measures so they can go out and be on the high streets and be in shops safely, and I think we have to encourage people to, where they feel comfortable, go out to the shops as they did previously."

After a quiet start in Woking, by lunchtime and mid-afternoon, there was a steady flow of customers at some retail outlets.

Stores now open include TK Maxx, Waterstones, Primark, Superdry, H&M, Sports Direct, New Look, JD Sports and Topshop. 

Debenhams is expected to open later in the week.

New measures are already in place at Woking Shopping, including technology to monitor visitor numbers and capacity.

Restaurants, coffee shops and bars are not allowed to fully open yet, though a number of cafés are selling drinks, food and snacks to take away.

In the wider town centre, a new deep cleaning regime is already under way, with street furniture cleansed every morning and throughout each day with anti-bacterial spray.

All town centre car parks will remain free of charge until the end of June.

Woking Square
Woking Shopping 5

Things are also said to be "going well" in Rushmoor, according to the borough council.

Markers have been put down to help maintain social distancing - some of which have trivia questions on them about the local area to "make queuing a bit of fun".

Volunteers are also on hand to support shoppers and help them if they have any queries.

The council added Farnborough, in particular, has been "fairly busy with a queue outside Sports Direct in The Meads".

A "good number of shops" are said to be open in Reigate & Banstead, with the borough council confirming it has been "busier than it has been for many weeks".

A spokesperson said:

"We’re encouraging our residents to ‘Shop Safe, Shop Local’ in our town centres.

"To help ensure a safe flow of shoppers, we’ve installed social distancing signs in Banstead, Redhill, Reigate and Horley, and have brightly coloured floor graphics being placed over the next few weeks."

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council told Eagle Radio that "everything seems to be going smoothly" in the area, with staff in the shopping areas monitoring the situation.

Epsom town centre What's On in Epsom
Council staff out and about in Epsom town centre

There has also been a "steady number of visitors" to both Caterham and Oxted town centres today, according to Tandridge District Council.

Although not all non-essential shops in the area have opened today, the council said they expect more to open "over the next week or so, once their plans to ensure customer and staff safety are in place".

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Elmbridge Borough Council said:

"We are happy to report that Elmbridge’s high streets and parades have re-opened safely this morning, with businesses back up and running and reporting the steady return of shoppers.

"Social distancing measures are in place which visitors are respecting, including one-ways systems and stewards to assist shoppers."

Elmbridge Borough Council

Spelthorne Borough Council has sent out a key message to residents, to 'shop smart, shop local and stay safe'.

But, a spokesperson has urged residents to "still only come to our high streets to purchase necessary items", and to allow extra time, plan ahead and avoid crowding where possible.

Staines Market will now operate on one side of the high street to ensure social distancing, while busier stalls will not be directly in front of high traffic shops, where long queues are likely.

A handwashing station will also be installed on Staines High Street, near the Natwest Bank (although this may be subject to change).

The council said that Staines Town Centre was busy this morning when shops first opened, but later calmed down.