A SCHEME is being introduced in the historic streets near Leicester Market to help businesses by allowing outdoor seating areas and enabling easier social distancing for customers.
The measures in the St Martins area of the city centre are designed to help local restaurants and cafes to reopen, with the option of providing additional pavement seating areas, as well as creating wider pedestrian spaces for shoppers.
Changes to be introduced include the full pedestrianisation of St Martins, between Loseby Lane and Cank Street, which will be open for pedestrians and cycles only.
The existing city centre pedestrian zone will be extended to include the whole of Grey Friars and St Martins between Loseby Lane and Peacock Lane. The flow of traffic around Market Place will also be reversed as part of the scheme. The scheme is expected to cost about £5,000.
Food and drink businesses can also apply for a street café licence in order to offer outdoor seating as a substitute for loss of indoor seating due to social distancing requirements.
The new measures are being introduced on Wednesday, August 19, using the Government’s emergency COVID-19 powers permitting local councils to close roads at short notice. Initially the work will be marked out with temporary barriers but these will be replaced with more attractive planters and screens.
Leicester Deputy City Mayor for environment and transportation, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “St Martins and the nearby Lanes are home to a great many independent businesses including cafes, bars and restaurants, and it is vital that we support such businesses as part of the city’s economic recovery from lockdown.
“We want to encourage people back into the city centre in a way that makes them feel safe, and making changes to allow greater social distancing is a key part of that. The legislation also allows food and drink businesses to apply for outdoor seating areas to accommodate more customers safely, and to make up for the loss of indoor seating.
“It will also encourage more people to walk or cycle in that part of the city, which will help improve air quality and safety.
“The changes are being brought in under the Government’s emergency COVID-19 laws which allow councils to act swiftly. The changes will be in place for up to 18 months after which we will look at whether it would be beneficial to put them in place permanently.”
Under the scheme access to some of the nearby areas will also change, with St Martins and Grey Friars now accessed from High Street; Cank Street and Hotel Street accessible from High Street and Cheapside, and Market Place accessed from Horsefair Street and Market Place South.
The existing one-way flow of traffic on Cheapside and Cank Street will be reversed.
Letters are being sent to businesses in the area to make sure they are aware of the changes, including amending existing parking permits to include the new access and providing loading areas during permitted hours.
Further information on the street café licencing process is available on the council's licences and permits webpage.
Businesses may also be able to apply for grants to buy outdoor seating. Further information is available on the council's coronavirus business support webpage.