Anyone heading into Newport on Monday will notice something a bit different.
Temporary changes will have been made in the town centre to make it safer and more spacious for pedestrians as part of Isle of Wight Council plans to encourage social distancing.
The most noticeable changes will be the appearance of white dots on the pavement to indicate two metre social distancing, as well as the message — ‘COVID-19 – Stay 2m apart’ — stencilled every 14 metres in the busiest shopping areas.
There will also be a number of signs attached to signposts and lampposts.
Most of them have the same message — ‘Keep your distance’ followed by ‘Maintain social distance’ — which is hoped will remind people to keep a two metre distance from others where possible.
Barriers will also be introduced to widen pavements as part of a pilot project in the lower part of the High Street.
The council aims to roll out similar schemes in Ryde and Cowes ready for 15 June when the government says non-essential shops can reopen.
The rest of the Island will be considered for such measures, where required, over the next four to six weeks.
With shops slowly starting to reopen and more people returning to work, Councillor Ian Ward, Cabinet member for transport and infrastructure, said it was essential for the council to support people to safely get out and about on foot.
He said: “Immediate priority is being given to our busiest shopping areas to ensure there is sufficient space for social distancing so people can safely access local businesses or pass by those queuing to enter shops.
“At this moment we are dealing with the ‘easy wins’ like widening pavements and extending pedestrianised zones, putting up new signage, setting down two metre marker dots to provide a ‘visual guide’ and relocating bus stops.
“However, going forward, we are keen to work closely with local communities, including town and parish councils and businesses, to find new and innovative ways to keep everyone safe in this ‘new normal’.
“Ultimately, it will all come down to people taking personal responsibility for their actions and how they behave when visiting some of our more busy areas.”
The first phase in Newport will centre on the lower High Street, between St James’ Street and Holyrood Street, but including St James’ Square and St Thomas’ Square.
The measures for this section include:
- A temporary 20 mph speed limit.
- The suspension of on-street parking (not loading bays) with barriers in the road to widen the pavement.
- The installation of painted dots and stencils at two metre intervals on the pavement, together with new signage.
- To aid social distancing at Newport Bus Station, bus stops for routes 5, 7, 12 and 38 will move to Church Litten from Monday, 8 June.
The council is also offering advice and guidance to businesses to ensure they are practising social distancing inside and immediately outside their premises when they reopen.
Template advisory posters will be available on the council’s website for businesses to download, print and use in store.
Council leader, Dave Stewart, said: “Working in partnership with local stakeholders, these initial measures will be kept under review and enable wider recovery using advice provided by the national ‘High Streets Task Force’.
“While our initial efforts are centred on Newport, plans are already being developed for Cowes and Ryde and other towns will follow shortly.
“We will be assessing all public spaces and making whatever changes we think are necessary to provide the space that will stop the disease from spreading.
“At every step we are committed to working with local communities to help shape those changes to ensure we have the right measures in the right locations.
“We are interested in hearing from as many people as possible with ideas and thoughts on what more can be done.
“It is now clear we are on a slow and careful journey of recovery, both as an Island community and as a tourist destination. The Island is waiting for visitors to return and we want to ensure we are fully prepared to keep both our local communities and visitors safe.
“This will be essential for the Island’s future social, economic and environmental wellbeing and we are determined to get the balance right in all three areas as we start to come out of lockdown.”