Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the stop-start nature of the various lockdown restrictions has placed exceptional pressure on Cornwall’s towns and high streets.
Their success is critical because they’re not just buildings, many of our residents work there and they’re at the heart of our local communities. A thriving high street economy plays a vital part in ensuring their future and they need support to recover – and thrive.
Over the past 16 months, the £509,639 made available to Cornwall Council through the government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund (RHSSF) has enabled 26 towns and neighbourhood shopping areas to put in place a variety of safety measures. This was done to reassure those visiting and doing business that environments had been created where social distancing and public health advice could be followed. These are highlighted in a video that can be viewed at: http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/towncentrewelcome/
and included creating one-way systems, street closures, pavement markings, street and floor signage, funding information officers and providing hand sanitiser stations: and to highlight the Hands Face Space guidance in a more informal, entertaining way during particularly busy periods, stiltwalkers made regular appearances in towns across Cornwall.
County Executive Officer of the Cornwall Association of Local Councils, Sarah Mason, comments: “The RHSSF came at a crucial time for local councils seeking to support their town centres, local businesses and their economy ahead of the high street reopening. They could use it to complement existing initiatives and expand the materials available to encourage their communities to shop safely and stay local.”
The final lifting of the government’s Covid restrictions (19th July 2021) means our local economies can look to the future. To address one of the main issues affecting Cornwall, many are exploring ways to overcome the unique seasonal challenges we face – and the virus is still very much with us, so continued vigilance also remains top of mind.
In recognition of these challenges, and as an extension of the RHSSF, Cornwall Council is receiving up to a further £609,639 from the Welcome Back Fund (WBF) through to the end of March 2022.
This will be used to support towns and businesses in attracting people into their local shopping areas now that they’ve re-opened, contribute to their vitality, and encourage people to experience those that are less visited.
The WBF greatly widens the scope of possible activities, giving the Council the ability to continue to liaise with partners and support local visitor economies and high streets. There’s the opportunity to trial innovative ideas, redesign and clean up public areas and turn them into appealing year-round destinations as well as create more attractive outdoor seating areas with entertainment, markets and similar local pop-ups.
The Council is also looking to roll out an engaging programme of cultural and creative events across Cornwall. This will provide a showcase for some of our fantastic local talent.
It is envisaged that the creation of safely managed areas that can be used year-round will leave a legacy from the Welcome Back Fund to ensure Cornwall’s towns and high streets become truly vibrant as safe, welcoming places for residents and visitors alike.
The Welcome Back Fund continues the work made possible through the earlier Reopening High Streets Safely Fund in supporting our town centres with the message:
Cornwall’s towns have safely reopened
They have lots to offer
And enjoy your visit
The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund and the Welcome Back Fund are both funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Cornwall Development Company has been commissioned to provide project management support and is liaising with local partners to determine expressions of interest.