What will town’s socially distanced high street look like?
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
Gorleston’s high street is often held up as a decline-bucking success, loved and enjoyed by all those who use it.
With an array of independent shops, served by numerous buses, and with a good sprinkling of pop-in parking it is a thriving retail hub.
In the next few weeks it will begin to get back to something like normal - but while that is easily achieved in wide-aisled stores on retail parks, for a tight ribbon of road packed with smaller shops self-distancing does not come easy.
Chairman of the Gorleston Traders’ Association Kevin Huggins has been wrestling with the issue and trying to keep everyone happy.
One way systems and barriers of the type seen in larger supermarkets seem to be the way to go, he says.
At Gorleston the main choice was whether to temporarily pedestrianise, or not.
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Buses and parking are key to bringing in shoppers and with public transport only able to take a fraction of the passengers it did before, that could mean more vehicles.
After much debate the best option looks to be a one-way system for traffic heading north to south towards the library, no parking, and barriers to allow space for people to queue outside shops and maintain the crucial 2m distance.
MORE: Council given £88,000 to re-open socially distanced high streets and tourist hotspotsThat way people could still potentially park on side roads off the high street, he said, and a small golf-buggy type vehicle could be used to ferry those who struggle to walk far to a bus stop in Church Road.
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Walking routes could also be made one way with crossing points installed.
“We are looking at all sorts of things to try and make it as easy as possible,” he said.
“We can only make it available for people.
“As we have seen common sense is not common.
“You have only got to go to Tesco to see not everyone abides by it.
“But whatever is going to happen the world is changing and we have to work it out.”
The few essential shops that had been able to open had seen queues forming, causing passers-by to step out between parked cars into the flow of traffic in order to keep to distancing rules.
Mr Huggins said he hoped on-street and commercial car parks in the area would also relax restrictions to help retailers.
Mark Routledge of retro fashion shop What is Hip? said he was on board with the one-way system option which kept traffic flowing down the high street.
He said the shop intended to open on June 15, allowing two people in at a time.
Although the store had been closed since March under lockdown it had still been able to sell across its social media platforms and had been well supported at home as well as in the US, Mr Routledge said.
Mr Huggins said Norfolk County Council would have the final say over what could be allowed in terms of traffic movement and parking and that he was waiting to hear its response as shops look to open their doors again after almost three months.
Cars would not be allowed to wait for shoppers and drop people off and CCTV cameras would keep a close eye on how people were managing the new regimes, he added.