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COVID-19: CEO Blog, May 2020

Together, we have observed 60 days of lockdown, following the announcement by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson on 23rd March 2020. Now that restrictions are being eased, like many towns and cities, we are turning our attention to the ‘Release’ phase, re-opening Croydon after a time when the town centre has, in the main, been placed on pause.
The caveat in re-opening the town centre is that we must, together, employ social distancing measures which may continue for weeks, maybe months. The single overarching aim is to create an environment which is safe and secure for people to use confidently, whilst employing the social distancing measures. 
 
Working with Croydon Council, Croydon BID is acting as a collective voice for your businesses and feeding into the release phase, which is putting in place the logistical plans to ensure Croydon can safely and securely operate in the weeks ahead. 
 
So what needs to be considered? We need to: 
 
• Adapt the public realm to support social distancing measures 
 
As the lockdown restrictions are eased and footfall tentatively eases, the need to create an environment in which we can move freely and safely is a priority. 
 
We have all already seen a number of social distancing measures in action, which range from the floor stickers, queuing systems and hygiene practices that are being employed by those businesses that have traded through the lockdown. 
 
Considerations must also be made to decluttering our town centre, removing any barriers that prevent our free moving from one point to another.  
 
Logistically, the spaces need to be managed, first and foremost, using the highways in appropriate ways. We have seen many examples across the UK and in Europe including roads that have been narrowed in order to increase pavement widths, or instigating the contraflow of pedestrians using alternative pavements to walk in different directions. 
 
Where are our pinch points? We are a transport super hub. Managing these spaces alongside the core town centre locations within which larger numbers of people may be seen, such as North End, George Street, Surrey Street and High Street, is fundamental in the operation of the town centre. 
 
Much of this planning is already in progress with Croydon Council and we are working through what measures need to be taken to operate the town centre safely. It is all about logistics. 
 
• Appropriate considerations to transport, transport routes, infrastructure and capacity
 
We are one of the best connected transport hubs in London. Managing the flow of people into and out of the town centre through the various modes of transport is a challenge. 
 
Considerations are being made to the main transport hubs, such as East Croydon and West Croydon train stations and bus stations, so that the flow of passengers into and out of the town centre can be managed. Discussions are ongoing with Croydon Council, Transport for London, Network Rail and GTR as to how social distancing can be sensibly employed to support the re-opening of the town centre. 
 
It is important also to consider the bus routes, bus stops and the numbers using the buses to come into and out of Croydon. As well as capacity levels on the tram, meeting the needs of  social distancing on the tram network and the platforms located across the town centre. 
 
Croydon Council, Croydon BID and partners are working on a series of options and solutions that will aid with the freedom of movement across the town centre in a safe and secure way. 
 
• Cleansing 
 
Working with Croydon Council, we aim to have our cleaning team back in operation shortly. 
 
Considerations will be made as to whether the standard delivery of deep cleaning and jet washing is required, or whether a more specialist approach is needed or indeed a combination of the two. Be rest assured that our team is ready to begin so that the main areas of the public realm can receive the necessary cleansing to support our work on the release phase. 
 
• Working with businesses throughout the process – offering support 
 
It is important, especially in times like these, that the plans are clear and to the point. Please be assured that Croydon BID and Croydon Council are developing the plans together to make sure the town centre is ready. There is a great deal of work that is required behind the scenes before detail can go live so that you know exactly what, why and when it is being done. 
 
We are engaging with businesses currently at the key pinch points to convey certain areas of work that are being discussed, while gaining a better picture as to the current social distancing measures already in place. 
 
We will expand this work by the end of the week to ensure it takes into account other areas of the town centre to ensure the plans are represented and well informed.
 
Our intention will be to create a toolkit for businesses to use to support the practical measures put in place. We are also discussing with businesses the practical measures such as the need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supportive elements. 
 
• Clear and comprehensive communications strategy
 
This is fundamental with a plan for both the consumers using the town centre and the businesses that support it. 
 
A series of clear messages focused largely on the need to employ social distancing in and around the town centre are required so that consumers know clearly how the ‘new’ way of using the town centre can be practically used and adopted. 
 
Working with Croydon council and economic development, communications plans will be developed to keep you informed and updated, provide support to you and your staff on the ground. 
 
Timing
 
We do not have a lot of it to complete the plans and make the necessary changes that are required to get the town centre functioning. However, all partners, led by Croydon Council, are focused on making sure our community is ready and that the necessary infrastructure delivers for your needs. 
 
Will there be teething problems? Yes, I can honestly say that I think there will be. In response, are we equipped to deal with them quickly and effectively? Yes, the teams working on the release phase are not only skilled and experienced, they are absolutely committed to making the much needed changes. 
 
We’re here to help
 
As always, we’re here to help you and your businesses in the town centre. We will be in touch with you to find out how best we can support you in these challenging times.
If your business would like to discuss your PPE requirements and the best approach to procuring it, please get in touch with me, Matthew.Sims@croydonbid.com.
 
Many thanks for your continued support.
 
Stay safe.

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