What is the We Are Back initiative?
The We Are Back initiative has been launched to provide businesses and shoppers with support to help our high streets re-open in a way that is safe for visitors and workers and which helps support our local businesses to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
The initiative is being led by Rochford District Council with funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). More information on the Re-opening High Streets Safely Fund can be found here.
What is meant by “re-opening high streets”?
During the outbreak of COVID-19, many high street businesses and other retailers were required to close their doors. The main exception to this was essential retailers.
The Government has now announced that other types of business can re-open, including open air markets, garden centres and some food and drink vendors on a ‘takeaway’ basis.
The Government has also announced a series of dates from which other types of business can re-open. From Monday 15thJune, all non-essential retailers will be permitted to re-open. Other types of business, including hairdressers, cafes and restaurants, are expected to re-open on Saturday 4th July at the earliest.
Are other retail businesses and local parades included?
Whilst the We Are Back initiative is primarily aimed at the larger centres of Rochford, Rayleigh and Hockley, where the footfall and density is greatest, the We Are Back initiative is also providing support to local parades including Golden Cross, Hullbridge and Great Wakering.
What support is available to businesses through the We Are Back initiative?
The We Are Back initiative has already delivered information packs to high street businesses and other retailers providing information on the support available to them with a branded risk assessment, branded social distancing poster and branded window sticker. Digital versions of these information packs are available to download here.
The We Are Back initiative has also created this website to help direct businesses and shoppers to relevant support and advice. This website will be kept up to date as more support and advice becomes available.
What other support is available to high street businesses and other retailers?
The Council has a business support webpage containing information on relevant support, training and networking opportunities available to businesses including high street retailers. This can be accessed here.
Organisations including BEST Growth Hub and FSB are also hosting a series of webinars specifically tailored for retail businesses. More information on these webinars is available here.
Will physical changes be made to the high streets in response to COVID?
We are working hard to consider what physical changes may be needed to ensure that visitors to the high streets can safely social distance and shop with confidence. As an interim measure we will be putting up signs and directions to encourage visitors to follow social distancing rules and safer pedestrian paths, including discouraging two-way use of narrower sections of footway and alleyway. We are exploring the introduction of more permanent changes or traffic management measures where these are justified and feasible.
How can I make my trip to the high street safer?
Visitors to the high street are required to follow the latest public health advice issued by the Government at all times. This is available at: www.gov.uk/coronavirus
At this time, we are also asking that visitors to our high streets:
- Do not travel to the high street if you have any COVID symptoms
- Maintain a 2 metre distance from those outside your household
- Follow signs and instructions provided on the street and in stores wherever possible
- Practice safe queuing by not joining queues where it would block the footway
- Avoid handling products whilst browsing, if at all possible
- Use digital means of payment where available
- Wear a face covering if using public transport
- Consider bringing your own face coverings and hand gel with you to the high street
- If you are intending to use Rochford District Council run car parks, download the ‘Pay by Phone’ app on your phone in advance
Please note that this advice may change at short notice in line with changes to the Government’s public health advice.
Will public car parks be open when I visit?
All Rochford District Council owned car parks are open. Please note charges are in place and will be enforced. While the purchase of a ticket using cash will be possible, it is strongly advised that the PayByPhone payment option is used to avoid queuing and contact with coins and the ticket machines. More information on how to pay by phone is available at: www.rochford.gov.uk/parking-and-travel
Will the markets be operating?
Both Rochford and Rayleigh markets are now operating in their usual locations (on a Tuesday and Wednesday respectively). Please note that in the interests of public safety both markets are currently operating at reduced capacity with fewer stalls than normal. The capacity of these markets may be allowed to increase over time where it is safe to do so.
Will public toilets be operating?
Crown Hill (Rayleigh) and Back Lane (Rochford) toilets are open to the public. Visitors to our high streets are advised to follow public health advice at all times by maintaining a 2 metre distance from others and washing their hands thoroughly and frequently, particularly after using public toilets.
Please note that the public toilets in Hockley remain closed at this time. This page will be updated when more is known about timescales for their re-opening.
What time is best to visit?
We are encouraging visitors to consider travelling to the high street at quieter times to help reduce any risks of overcrowding. We expect the high streets to be busiest between 10am and 11am, and around lunchtime.