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Over the last few weeks, we have been working to help local High Street businesses as part of our continued response to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

To support the local economy and to create a more comfortable environment for people to meet and shop in the Old Town, our plans include: space for additional outdoor seating for eating and drinking, enabling safe movement up and down the High Street; replacement and additional free parking available via the former Waitrose car park; and using Government funding to provide additional capacity for those choosing to cycle to visit local shops. The changes are planned to stay in place until the end of March 2021 and could be extended if necessary, depending on the status of the pandemic.

Creating some additional spaces along the High Street for outdoor seating areas to support businesses, and to help make sure we can have safe movement along pavements, we have put in place three temporary seating areas (near Angelique, Costas, and by the Social Club), with flower planters and protective barriers to mark out the areas, and floral displays being planted. Government has very recently given local Councils new powers to offer pavement licences for food and beverage outlets. Those businesses wanting to put tables and chairs on the highway can find further information on our Pavement Licence page.

Secondly, for six months we are providing replacement and additional free parking to accommodate the temporary changes above. We have now made the former Waitrose car park free of charge for up to three hours. We will be putting in place additional signage to direct visitors to it.

Thirdly, no doubt you will have seen lots of recent coverage in the media to encourage the use of healthy and environmentally-friendly ways to travel, including walking or cycling. To help with this we have installed three new cycle parking points within the High Street, using government funding. We had a very short window of opportunity to bid for this funding meaning we have had a limited opportunity to discuss locations in advance, but welcome any feedback to help inform this process in the future.

Councillor Lloyd Briscoe, executive member for Economy, Enterprise and Transport, commented on the changes: “Our historic High Street is one of the aspects that I really treasure most about Stevenage.

“It has become synonymous with what is fundamentally core to the community spirit which we now have right across Stevenage. Moreover, the High Street has managed to retain its charm, its purpose and is the go-to place for so many of us who live here. Long may it remain so.

“The changes we are making are designed to reflect our modern way of life whilst at the same time being sympathetic to our history and heritage. I am passionate about our local history because knowing about what happened in the past allows us to better understand our present and to make informed decisions about our future.”