Plans in place to support businesses and make high streets safe as lockdown eases

HEADQUARTERS: Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House

HEADQUARTERS: Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House - Credit: Archant

Plans are being put place to boost safety in Huntingdonshire’s towns as a “new normal” emerges with the gradual lifting of the coronavirus lockdown.

Priority will be given to tackling areas with narrow pavements and busy pedestrian areas as Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) uses a £157,000 government grant designed to help kick-start the economy.

The move comes into effect as more shops are allowed to open their doors to the public on June 15 and will enable people to use town centres more safely.

In addition the council is also launching a discretionary grant funding scheme which allows small firms to gain access to government money in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

HDC leader Cllr Ryan Fuller said: “Supporting local businesses in whatever way we can as a local authority remains a key priority – with action plans for each of our markets towns being drawn up for the public to be able to see exactly what the district council is implementing, so they can feel confident that town centres are safe to visit again.

“As the high street begins to slowly reopen, it is more important than ever for communities to shop local. By choosing to spend your money in a small business you are helping to support and protect our local economy.”

The discretionary fund is aimed at firms which have not yet been able to claim Government cash - with £1.6m worth of one-off payments ranging from £3,000 to £10,000 being made available to small businesses in shared offices or flexible workspaces, regular market traders who do not have business rates assessments, bed and breakfasts which pay Council Tax instead of business rates and charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief.

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Cllr Fuller said: “We have been strong in our support for local businesses and in support of our local economy. There is a great number of small businesses and organisations within our district that play a vital role in the very make up of the local economy that, up until this point, have yet to be able to access government funding.

“We want to ensure that they are given the opportunity to access funds that other businesses have had the chance to take up. The discretionary grants scheme can offer an essential helping hand for small businesses and we are aware of how speed of delivery is required for this scheme. We will be working to ensure that the funds are distributed to eligible businesses as quickly as possible through a carefully designed applications system.”

He added: “We have already paid out over £27m to more than 2,150 local businesses and we will continue to support our business sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response.”

More than 100 new signs, floor marking and enhanced cleaning are being introduced under the reopening scheme, drawn up with local businesses, town councils and the county highways department.

Businesses can check their eligibility for a grant at with applications opening at 9am on June 8 on a first come first served basis.