The announcements have been coming thick and fast this week.

First the government’s further guidance at the weekend on the phased unlocking of the lockdown, which I will come back to in a moment.

Then on Tuesday, the announcement from BCP Council that all major summer events have been cancelled including the air festival, Christchurch Food Festival and the BSO in Meyrick Park. There was an inevitability about all of this of course but it will be hugely disappointing for many people and businesses.

The same day came the news from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the jobs retention scheme will be extended. This is to be welcomed as it buys some breathing space for business even if there is a huge amount of uncertainty about the future shared costs of the scheme. The Chancellor will need to clarify this very quickly.

Meanwhile following the further guidance from the government, the clock is ticking on what will be a significant, if only partial reopening of our high streets and town centres from June 1.

But what will that look like in view of the fact that social distancing measures will need to stay in place, both inside and outside?

There is already guidance available for shops and other premises in terms of issues such as screens at tills, the availability of hand sanitiser, flow of customers and queuing. Some things are not so clear, for example the protocol around the use and cleaning of changing rooms.

Outside in the street, things are less clear.

The town is already getting busier.

Bournemouth has the benefit of some wide pedestrian spaces with should make the two metre rule easier to stick to than in some places.

But there is some street furniture that will almost certainly need looking at.

Who will enforce social distancing in town centre if anyone?

Will we need markings along the pavements and who will coordinate that?

Will we need one way pedestrian flows anywhere in the town?

How will the car parks and the pop up cycleways operate?

There is a lot to think about.

Some observers think this will all take care of itself and people will effectively self police, I believe they are kidding themselves. We have already seen countless examples up and down the country where the rules have been flouted.

Opening up the high street is one thing.

Giving people the confidence it is safe to come back is quite another.

Like so much else in this new world, this will require a collaborative, coordinated approach led by BCP Council, pulling in the knowledge, commitment and expertise of all the key players.

All this will require a bit of vision, a lot of leadership and a process that is nimble, flexible and imaginative, not bureaucratic, cumbersome and time-consuming.

The business community needs reassurance, confidence and optimism.

But so do the customers.

Martin Davies,


Bournemouth Town Centre BID