Temporary road closures and suspended parking bays were among some of the highway changes in Margate’s Old Town and Harbour Parade, Ramsgate that were introduced on Saturday 18 July, to help prevent overcrowding.
These changes are part of a raft of Reopening High Streets Safely (RHSS) temporary measures to help successfully reopen Thanet’s economy and help stop the spread of COVID-19.
With peak season now upon us, the aim of this project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is to create a pleasant environment for visitors to the high street, allow more space for shoppers to be socially distant and enable pedestrian flow.
The following changes are being trialled for a period of three months and their effectiveness is being continually monitored. The measures have been introduced in consultation with the Highways Authority (Kent County Council.)
- Temporarily suspending 14 parking bays along Harbour Parade in Ramsgate, from Little Ships through to The Queens Head, in order to widen the pavement.
- Temporarily shutting off The Parade in Margate which is very narrow.
- Limiting traffic by making King Street, Market Street and Lombard Street in Margate Old Town access only.
- Converting the decommissioned bus stop on the main seafront section of The Parade (Margate) into a loading bay to help support businesses. Civil Enforcement Officers are carrying out targeted enforcement in this area while the change embeds.
Businesses in these areas and the high streets have been contacted by the council and are aware of the action taken to support reopening. They have been encouraged to provide feedback. Based on initial comments, the council will put up signage in Margate Old Town confirming ‘Businesses open as usual’. Some of the barriers along Harbour Parade, Ramsgate will be removed to allow people to leave premises with greater ease and to cross the road more safely.
Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Rick Everitt said: “We are doing as much as possible to support our high streets and help the recovery process. But we have to balance that with the safety and wellbeing of people visiting and working in our town centres when COVID-19 has not gone away.
“We’re expecting a high number of visitors this summer and we all need to take responsibility to follow social distancing guidelines. We hope that these temporary measures will make it safer and easier for people to support our local high streets.
“While these measures cover Margate and Ramsgate, it’s important to be clear that we have been in discussions with other town and parish councils across Thanet, as well as relevant ward councillors. We have taken account of what they told us in respect of their areas. If needed, there is scope for a decision around where additional schemes may occur in the future.
“We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to provide us with their feedback. We are continually reviewing comments and have already made changes as a direct result of feedback received.”
The council is aware of the issues with people removing barriers and signs. CCTV is in operation in both locations which is being closely monitored, along with patrols of the area. Any person that moves the barrier causing danger to users of the highway is guilty of an offence under the Highways Act 1980 and liable to a maximum fine of £1,000.
Further measures are still being considered including one way systems on pavements and utilising parking bays along Marine Drive in Margate to widen the pavement. As before, businesses and residents will be kept fully informed of any plans.
The council continues to work with businesses across all sectors to ensure they are putting measures in place to maintain social distancing and keep customers and staff safe.
Following the weekend, businesses were contacted to remind them that outdoor seating is only permitted if a pavement licence has already been issued or where tables and chairs are on their own land. Businesses are not currently allowed to put tables and chairs out on the pavement or highway without permission.
The new Business & Planning Act 2020 introduces a streamlined consent route to allow businesses to obtain a licence to place temporary furniture, such as tables and chairs outside of cafes, bars and restaurants quickly. Information and application forms will be available on the council’s website shortly.
A dedicated information page for businesses is available at thanet.gov.uk/reopening. This has the most up-to-date government guidance for different businesses as well as downloadable social distancing posters and social media assets that people can download and use for free.