10 June 2020| | 3 min read
Next steps to prepare for city recovery
Measures to help shoppers and workers in Newcastle get around the heart of the city centre are being installed this week.
This will see one-way walking routes and queuing areas put in place on Northumberland Street in preparation for shops being able to reopen from 15 June. Measures will be introduced on Blackett Street shortly afterwards.
Signage showing people which way to go and where to queue will be in place and a team of volunteers, acting as city hosts, will be out on the street from June 15 to help people as they get used to the new social distancing arrangements.
Social distancing circles will also be marked out on open green spaces, including the area outside the Civic Centre and The Church of St Thomas the Martyr and Old Eldon Square.
The new layout for the city’s main shopping streets has been designed by Newcastle City Council in consultation with partners including the police, NE1 and major retailers.
In preparation the city council has already removed street furniture, including most seating, so that the maximum space available can be used.
But people are reminded that, even with these measures in place, the city will not be back to normal just yet.
People are urged not to rush back into the city centre unless their journey is necessary in order to ensure the social distancing measures being put in place can work effectively. People should continue to shop local or shop online using local retailers where possible.
People are also reminded that from 15 June, when many non-essential shops are expected to reopen their doors, wearing face coverings on public transport will become mandatory. The advice on using public transport for essential journeys only remains in place.
And people are also warned that most public toilets, including those within shops, will not be open and, with cafes, restaurants and bars remaining closed for the time being, there are likely to be very few toilet facilities available.
Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: “The measures we are putting in place on Northumberland Street and Blackett Street are to enable social distancing and create areas for queuing as shops start to reopen.
“We want to ensure people can feel safe and reassured as we start to welcome people back into the city centre.
“But while we are keen to see our economic recovery get under way, it remains vital that we all keep to the social distancing measures that are essential for us to beat this pandemic.
“We remind people that although shops are starting to open it is certainly not business as usual and the city centre will be a very different place for the time being.
“We urge people to use your local shops whenever possible and only make journeys into Newcastle if you really need to so that we can avoid areas becoming too crowded and ensure we continue to limit the spread of the virus.”
The measures on Northumberland Street will see the creation of two 4m wide walkways, one in each direction, with areas in front of shops and businesses for people to queue.
There will also be additional queuing space in the centre of the street in case queuing areas outside shops become full.
But space for queues will be limited due to the large number of businesses that need to be accommodated and people are encouraged not to crowd into queuing areas or stand around on walkways if queuing spaces are already full.
The new arrangements on the city’s main shopping streets follow changes made on Queen Victoria Road and St Thomas’ Street, where extra space for walking and cycling has been created to help people – particularly hospital staff going to and from work – to travel safely and with social distancing.
The city council is having to work quickly in putting measures in place and the new arrangements and signage are being monitored and altered where needed in response to how people are using them.
To help make sure people can also travel and shop safely in their local areas the council will also be introducing changes to streets around district shopping centres.
These will mirror the changes in the city centre and will include widening of pavements to help with social distancing and managing queues to encourage people to shop local.
Further details on these neighbourhood changes, including where and when they will happen, will be released shortly.
Cllr Arlene Ainsley on changes to Northumberland Street