Kirklees Council is working towards re-opening its town centres as retailers plan to open their doors on 15 June.  The council is working closely with the Huddersfield BID, Dewsbury Forward and the Dewsbury chamber of trade to make sure people can return to the town centres safely.

The government announced that shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be able to reopen from 15 June as long as their 5 Covid-19 tests are met.  This means that previously empty high streets and precincts are likely to become much busier.

As a sign of its commitment to recovery following the coronavirus lockdown, the council is making the bold move to waive parking charges throughout Kirklees until September to encourage people to visit their town centres and help build a stronger local economy.

To prepare for the increase in footfall the council is also putting place signage and markings to help with queuing and social distancing on its footpaths and precincts.  They are also providing advice to businesses on how they can open safely.

In Huddersfield the BIDs Street Ambassadors will be on hand to support people as they learn how they get used to the changes.  The Safer Kirklees Community Environmental Support Officers will be in both Huddersfield and Dewsbury to give advice and guidance on social distancing and keeping safe.

The council says that this is just the start, additional measures to support town centres will be announced in the coming weeks.

As part of the recovery, the council recently announced plans to change roads to encourage active travel and make it easier for people to walk and cycle safely into and through Huddersfield and Dewsbury, more details on both schemes and other recovery plans will be released in the future.

Cllr Shabir Pandor Leader of the Council said: “We want to make it as safe as possible for people to work in and visit our town centres.  Waiving parking charges is just the first step in our longer term recovery plans, making sure that town centres come back stronger following the virus, in order for us to achieve our blueprint ambitions for both Huddersfield and Dewsbury.

It is essential that we do what we can to support local businesses during this recovery period which is why we want to make sure our town centres are safe and attractive spaces. Through innovative art installations, messaging that positively reinforce social distancing guidance and by providing more room to walk and cycle we will not only make our towns safer, and more attractive, but also make it easier for people to safely travel to and from work.”

Cllr Peter McBride Cabinet Member for Regeneration said: “Whilst we delighted to be bringing people back to our town centres, safety has to be our utmost priority. We will only be able to keep on our current path to recovery if the rate of infection stays within government guidelines. That is why it is so important that everyone continues to stay 2m apart and follows public health guidance around washing your hands and staying home if you feel ill.’

“Retailers are working hard to make sure people can shop safely. As we have seen at supermarkets and food stores over recent weeks, this means limiting how many people can shop at one time and queuing outside when it gets busy.  So if you do come into town,  please keep your distance, be patient and be kind to each other and the people who are serving you.’

“It’s also worth remembering that our parks and open spaces remain available for people who want to get some fresh air or meet in a socially distanced group of up to 6 people.”