By Daniel Wood
Kirklees Council has announced that free parking will continue as they work towards re-opening its town centres this month.
Parking charges were put on hold earlier in the year and it has been announced that free parking will continue until September.
Retailers plan to open their doors on 15 June as lockdown measures continue to be reduced.
The council is working closely with the Huddersfield BID, Dewsbury Forward and the Dewsbury chamber of trade to make sure people can return to the town centres safely.
The government announced that shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be able to reopen from 15 June as long as their 5 COVID-19 tests are met.
This means that previously empty high streets and precincts are likely to become much busier.
The council have stated that in their commitment to recovery following three months of people staying at home, it was making “the bold move to waive parking charges throughout Kirklees” to help build a stronger local economy.
In Huddersfield, the BIDs Street Ambassadors will be on hand to support people as they learn how they get used to the changes.
The Safer Kirklees Community Environmental Support Officers will be in both Huddersfield and Dewsbury to give advice and guidance on social distancing and keeping safe.
The council says that this is just the start, additional measures to support town centres will be announced in the coming weeks.
As part of the recovery, the council recently announced plans to change roads to encourage active travel and make it easier for people to walk and cycle safely into and through Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
Cllr Shabir Pandor Leader of the Council said: “We want to make it as safe as possible for people to work in and visit our town centres.
“Waiving parking charges is just the first step in our longer-term recovery plans, making sure that town centres come back stronger following the virus, in order for us to achieve our blueprint ambitions for both Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
He also stressed that they would do what they can to support local businesses during the recovery period while making sure the town centre is a safe and attractive space.
He added: “Through innovative art installations, messaging that positively reinforces social distancing guidance and by providing more room to walk and cycle we will not only make our towns safer, and more attractive, but also make it easier for people to safely travel to and from work.”
To prepare for a busier town centre, the council is also putting into place new signs and markings to help with queuing and social distancing on its footpaths and precincts.
They have also begun to provide advice for open businesses safely.
Cllr Peter McBride Cabinet Member for Regeneration said: “Whilst we are delighted to be bringing people back to our town centres, safety has to be our utmost priority.
“We will only be able to keep on our current path to recovery if the rate of infection stays within government guidelines.
“That is why it is important that everyone continues to stay two metres apart and follows public health guidance around washing your hands and staying home if you feel ill.”
He also stated how retailers are working hard to make sure people can shop safely and this means limiting the number of people who can shop at one time.
“It’s also worth remembering that our parks and open spaces remain available for people who want to get some fresh air or meet in a socially distanced group of up to 6 people.”