Western Morning News

Recovery plan for Plymouth city centre

- WILLIAM TELFORD william.telford@reachplc.com

RETAIL bosses are working on a “recovery plan” for Plymouth’s city centre, though fear social distancing measures will remain after lockdown ends, meaning shops will struggle for months.

Steve Hughes, chief executive of the City Centre Company, said preparatio­ns were already being made to ensure the city’s main retail centre will bounce back after the coronaviru­s crisis is over.

He is even hopeful families, fed up after weeks stuck at home, will go on a spending spree once Covid-19 restrictio­ns end.

And he said major infrastruc­ture plans for Old Town Street, the railway station, Civic Centre and the West End are still expected to go ahead – the latter as soon as lockdown is stopped.

But he warned that it will be difficult to predict what state the retail world will be in when it emerges from lockdown, with several major chains already in administra­tion or planning to close stores.

He also thinks that social distancing will remain in force once lockdown restrictio­ns are lifted which may mean large scale events will not be allowed in the city centre, possibly for some time.

And he said Government assistance will almost certainly be needed, with local authority back-up, if the British high street is to survive.

“We (City Centre Company) are working on a recovery plan but it’s difficult to know what that recovery will look like,” he said. “We will be continuing to talk to the city council and other partners about what we can do when restrictio­ns are lifted. We hope we can continue with the capital projects and major schemes.”

He said the environmen­tal changes identified for New George Street and Old Town Street, such as new flower beds and play areas, are “budgeted for and on board”.

“We would also hope that all restrictio­ns are eased and there will be pent-up demand and an initial bounce back, and we will get some more trade,” he said.

“And of course we will be preparing for Christmas. But we have to accept that this year will be exceptiona­l. We know it will be a difficult year for the high street and our retailers because the high street is dependent on footfall.

“We hope to get back to some sort of normality but expect social distancing will continue for quite some time, which may make it difficult for us to stage large scale events, which in the past would have brought people into the city centre and given business a boost. So businesses will have to look at new ways of boosting trade whilst keeping people safe.”

Mr Hughes said Government measures – such as the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Leisure and Hospitalit­y Grant Fund – have been a help, but stressed more will have to be done to assist struggling enterprise­s.

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 ?? Google ?? > New George Street in Plymouth city centre
Google > New George Street in Plymouth city centre

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