Question from: County Councillor Gareth Ratcliffe Subject: Covid19 restriction guidance
Last year I was approached by Powys County Council [PCC] to look at social distancing measure that the Welsh government wanted in Hay and other towns in Powys. As local member I felt it was right that this was led by the community, so I handed over discussions to the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce. I attended the first meeting and it was stated that it was a Welsh Government grant for towns to introduce measures where social distancing was difficult. It was also stated that due to Hay’s narrow main streets doing nothing was not an option and if the town did not do anything then PCC would introduce what it thought was correct to protect the public. At this point I stepped away and left the Town Council and Chamber to move forward with proposal. I need to put this in context of the timing around the pandemic and there was no traveling etc. The Town Council put forward some proposals late last year and PCC applied a traffic order for this May. Since the start of the year, we have moved so far with easing and the excellent vaccination programme that we are in a different world it seems to where we were 4 months ago.
Last week I stepped in and arranged a meeting with officers and Hay Town Council to look at these measures as it has become clear that messages from PCC and Welsh Government to the town council and the public have been confusing with lots of mixed messages around who was responsible and concerns that this was about PCC introducing a café culture not just covid19 restrictions.
I was pleased to see that officers agreed there is some flexibility in the road closure order to allow changes. This was a great relief to the Town Council as it allowed them to listen to the community. We have had a hard year in Hay and the restrictions have supported business but also slowed business down this has also been harder due to the difficulties arising from being a border town location. Now as we are seeing easing of restrictions in the near future (we are presently in tier 4 and soon moving to tier 3) will we see alterations to social distancing measures?
I must say safety of the community and visitors is paramount and I fully understand the street being closed when the town is busy (like a supermarket closes when too many are in) but I am hearing concerns from businesses and residents that the present closures in Hay and Brecon are having the opposite effect and are turning business away.
Nationally we are moving out of restrictions, and I am writing to you to ask that a clear plan from the council of when restrictions ... view the full agenda text for item 1.
Response by the Portfolio Holders:
Apologies for not responding to your question sooner.
In terms of the street closures and areas where parts of the highway have been repurposed, it is planned to continually engage with the Elected Members and Town Councils where measures are implemented to review their relevance as we move out of the pandemic restrictions.
The Pandemic has had some widespread impacts on our communities, and we would wish to work with our towns to help them flourish. We need to recognise that town centres have changed over the last 5 year or so with more and more shopping taking place online. This pandemic has accelerated that change and it is acknowledged this has had a national detrimental impact upon some shops and businesses that operate from town centre locations. Whilst we would wish that businesses are able to continue to trade, we need to reflect on this past year and ensure our town centres are the vibrant and attractive spaces which attract visitors. Given this we will shortly be undertaking some public consultation to gauge people’s opinions to help inform or decisions going forward.
Powys County Council have provided a dedicated Covid-19 Helpline for Powys residents and businesses as well as a dedicated webpage which links to all updates from Public Health Wales and Welsh Government. These support networks will continue for the foreseeable future.
We will shortly be recruiting three Covid Recovery Support Officers who will be working directly with local businesses, communities and residents throughout the county to offer support and guidance as we move forward.