COVID-19 Recovery Plan that aims to support businesses and boost town centre footfall backed by councillors
A COVID-19 Recovery Plan that aims to support businesses across Wrexham County Borough from the impacts of the pandemic has been backed unanimously by senior councillors.
The document, which was described by the council’s lead member for economic development and regeneration as containing the “priorities and actions that will underpin economic recovery” in Wrexham, outlines the actions that will be taken to boost footfall and confidence from businesses as lockdown measures are eased.
Speaking at this morning’s executive board – the second to be broadcast via Zoom – Cllr Terry Evans said that Wrexham town centre and the wider economy of the county borough “has been dramatically affected by the lockdown period”.
He added that it was “critical” that the town centre recovers “quickly and successfully as the premier destination town in North Wales.”
Such steps taken to reduce the impact on businesses include 24,595,000 in rate relief grants provided by the local authority to 2,760 businesses across the area.
Advice and guidance has also been offered by the Wrexham Council to 1,000 businesses.
Footfall in the town has also increased to around 55,000 since non-essential retail opened. This is an increase on the 20-30,000 average during the 12 weeks of lockdown.
The COVID-19 Recovery Plan itself aims to build on the support carried out during lockdown and seeks to give “consumers and visitors confidence that they can go about their business in a safe manner” and have the “confidence to come back time and time again.”
This includes the three themes of safety, promotion and regeneration for both the long and short term.
Cllr Evans explained: “Under safety measures such as new signage, one way system when social distancing cannot otherwise be achieved and the introduction of social distancing champions have helped provide reassurance that Wrexham town centre was safe and was open for business on the 22nd of June.
“After the first week of re-opening, which then saw the reopening of indoor markets, Ty Pawb, Henblas Street toilets, footfall has nearly doubled.
“The council intends to introduce a £50,000 marketing campaign to run through out 2020 to encourage people to come back to Wrexham Town Centre.
“The first eight weeks of the campaign will focus on promoting reassuring messages about safety and will evolve to enlighten the unique offer independent small shops, along with regional and national significant visitor destination
“The council continues to support visitors and businesses with the extension of free car parking into September 2020.”
Looking further ahead to post pandemic there are plans for the Western Gateway development, the national football museum and to reduce empty town centre properties.
Businesses on the town’s high street will be encouraged extend their trade outside with the pausing the pavement license fee, along with a series of smaller and socially distant events running between September and Christmas.
Grosvenor councillor Marc Jones, asked for further detail on the marketing plan and also urged councillors to use their own platforms to promote the re-opening of the town centre.
Cllr Jones said: “It is heartening to see that footfall is increasing, anyone going into town can see the footfalls increasing. People are getting back into the habit in a way – we need to be encouraging that.
“It will be interesting to know where we are at in terms of the promotional campaign. I know that it’s an eight week campaign. And obviously, it’s an it’s an evolving campaign, I would imagine.
“I’d also like to know where we are in terms of the high street in the public realm. I understand there’s a 28 day consultation and that’s obviously going to hold us up slightly.
“In terms of that, are we realistically going to see anything happening before the end of August, if that consultation has to take place?”
The meeting was told that public realm process is governed by the highways act requires a 28 day consultation and it specifically impact specifically any areas that “constitute highway”.
Chief Executive Ian Bancroft noted that the promotional plan isn’t just about marketing, but also about how people can feel comfortable returning to the town centre.
He said: “It’s also around making sure there are safe events and activities going on that meet restrictions and guidelines.
“The is the plan over the coming weeks is to actually make sure that we safely reintroduce people back into the town centre, whether that be things happening as restrictions lift at Ty Pawb, or whether it be things happening in the town centre.
“So that pots of money is around how we balance both safety and encouragement of use of the town centre by not just saying businesses are open, come and walk in, but we will be doing things specifically to help people come back to the town centre.”
Council Leader Mark Pritchard also paid tribute to town centre team and workers who have helped enable the re-opening of the town centre.
He said: “The town centre management team have worked tirelessly to promote the town in these difficult times and also unlock the term centre in a safe and appropriate manner.
“They have worked tirelessly to do that before the first day of opening and they continually work hard to make sure that anybody who comes to Wrexham, the shops opening and unlocking the economy, is done in a safe and appropriate manner.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the town centre team for that.”
The COVID-19 Recovery Plan was passed unanimously by councillors. You can view the document in full on the council’s website, here.
Pictured – Wrexham town centre during lockdown
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