By Lee Wilkinson
On a windy and somewhat dismal day we ventured into the Stevenage Town Centre with the objective of shooting some video and reporting back on how we saw things developing now that we are starting to come out of lockdown.
In general, it appeared that life is slowly starting to return to a level of normal, not what it was before the pandemic took hold, but certainly better than it has been.
Most of the shops and businesses are opening in varying forms that range from fully operational to somewhat limited. Many of the cafés have a limited seating option and are taking part in the ‘Eat Out Help Out’ scheme that has been put in place by the government.
The scheme is running from August 3rdthrough the 31stand covers 50% of the cost of the food and drinks (non alcoholic) when you eat in at those establishments registered with the scheme. There is a limit of up to £10.
As with Old Town, most of the businesses were displaying the guidelines clearly on the doors and windows for entry into shops, café’s and pubs etc. while many have retained one-way systems, Plexiglas patricians and staff wearing masks. It was noticeable that some stores, however, did not appear to require staff to wear facemasks.
Stevenage is at present in the midst of a massive twenty-year regeneration programme that has resulted in £1bl budget. This is not just limited to the Town Centre but also the surrounding areas. For more information on the plans, go to http://www.stevenage-even-better.com/
The key take away from visiting Old Town and the Town Centre is the striking fact that the ‘High Street’ as we know it will be forever changed and while we have a nagging feeling that everything has gone onto the internet, it’s not completely true.
There are many things that we cannot get from an internet purchase; haircuts, a cup of coffee and while we use the term broadly, a community. There are many businesses that will still need a ‘shop front’ so to speak; we cannot get a tattoo on the internet and we cannot go out to lunch or dinner with friends on the internet. So yes, it is sad that big stores like ToysRus have gone away forever, but I assert that we must support our local businesses so that we can retain that part of our community that makes this country unique to so many others.
It is our local businesses that are the heart and soul of our villages, towns and corners of many of our cities.
After a day wandering through Stevenage Town Centre, I am happy to say that many of our small businesses, while bruised from the lengthy lockdown, are still standing.
Take care of each other, take care of yourself,