As the Government starts to relax the lockdown, it has published guidance on different aspects of our (former) lives.  This has included advice for owners and operators of public spaces, urban centres and green spaces.  

These are not legal obligations, but suggestions of practical steps that could be taken to ensure social distancing as retail space is allowed to open up, people start returning to offices and urban spaces become busier.  

The details provided include a flow chart to identify pinch points and suggestions, including:

  • extending footways (perhaps by closing significant streets to traffic some or all of the time, as the City of London and Canary Wharf Group have proposed),
  • removing unnecessary obstacles, such as planters, landscape features or bins
  • installing / increasing handwashing and hand sanitation facilities
  • appropriate signage, spray markings on pavements or adding tape or barriers to enforce social distancing
  • restricting entry and exit points
  • relocating bus stops to areas with more space for queueing
  • considering car park layout and spacing, reducing capacity if appropriate; on street parking could be suspended to facilitate pavement widening

Other novel ideas have been suggested, including a government backed trial for electric scooters in Birmingham and other city centres, to enable people to get to work and retail areas more easily, and pubs and restaurants potentially being allowed to sell food and drink from street stalls outside their premises (although this may contradict pavement widening proposals!). 

Clearly, each site has its own considerations and local high streets will be different to shopping malls, city centres or retail/business parks.  Transport links are going to be a key factor to what practical steps should be taken for each area.  As footfall fell by 85% year-on-year across the UK’s shopping locations in April, owners and occupiers are going to need to take all appropriate measures to ensure that customers feel comfortable and safe.  

The same will apply to commercial districts, where the open space is more likely to be controlled by local authorities.  As REVO have made clear in their proposals for reopening shopping centres and retail parks, it will be highly desirable for owners, occupiers and local authorities to work together.  The steps back to work and traditional shopping are going to take time, and will involve all employees, customers and stakeholders feeling they trust the actions taken.