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Leader of South Kesteven District Council, Kelham Cooke, talks about reopening the high street

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Leader of South Kesteven District Council, Kelham Cooke, talks about reopening the high street in his latest column:

In just over a week, we are due to enter a further phase of Covid-19 recovery as more shops on our high streets open their doors to customers after 12 weeks of lockdown.

This is a significant and positive step forward and one that is being met with a mixture of relief, anticipation and some natural anxiety as businesses and shoppers try to work through the practicalities of a relaxation of the lockdown rules whilst staying safe and social distancing.

SKDC leader Coun Kelham Cooke
SKDC leader Coun Kelham Cooke

This is exactly the balancing act we are addressing at the council as we look at how we can support our local businesses and protect the health of their staff, shoppers, and our residents more generally. What is very clear, is that we won’t be able to do this alone. As with every step in these unprecedented times, it is teamwork, community spirit, and respect for others that will see us through, just as it enabled South Kesteven to maintain its fresh food markets during lockdown.

We have a team of dedicated staff who are already working in partnership with local businesses, community groups, and our colleagues at Lincolnshire County Council to ease us into this next phase as seamlessly as possible.

We are providing shops and businesses with a variety of social distancing signs and there will be signage on lampposts and other appropriate places to gently remind us of the 2-metre rule.

Social distancing is vitally important for everyone because, as we know, it isn’t just about protecting ourselves from the virus, it is about protecting our friends, our families, and those who are supporting our communities, such as shop workers.

And if we think about it, we will all know someone who is particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, it is our responsibility, individually and collectively, to protect them.

So one of the other things we are doing, in partnership with our fantastic community groups, parish or town councils, and shop keepers,

is putting together a network of volunteers – social distancing champions – to support the overwhelming majority of people who are adhering to regulations

by alerting us to any potential problems so that we can work together to resolve them. This isn’t about stewarding people or tackling individual issues on the

ground, but about highlighting potential pinch points where we can make a difference and keep people safe.

I am hopeful and confident that there will be few problems if past experience is anything to go by. Just the other day, we noted an orderly, socially distanced 40-metre queue outside a shop in our district as people waited patiently for their turn. It is equally important for those who aren’t in a queue to please remember to walk around the queue rather than through it, whilst also being mindful of the wider surroundings.

We have four fabulous market towns in our district. Our high streets are the lifeblood of these towns and the surrounding villages. We’ve all missed them.

Our aim is to do all we can to make this tentative step forward a positive experience for all.

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