Sidmouth businesses discuss priorities for post-lockdown recovery

Summertime in Sidmouth. Ref shs sidmouth1. Picture: Alex Walton.

Summertime in Sidmouth. Ref shs sidmouth1. Picture: Alex Walton. - Credit: Archant

Economic recovery after lockdown was the main theme of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce’s virtual breakfast meeting on Wednesday, May 13.

More than 35 members of the Chamber took part via the video conferencing tool Zoom, along with the East Devon MP Simon Jupp and the chairman of the town council, Ian Barlow.

Mandy French of accountants Thomas Westcott advised on financial issues arising from the pandemic, and Julie Turner of Sid Valley HELP addressed mental health matters.

Dealing with the relaxation of lockdown was a key concern among members. With the restrictions on car journeys lifted, the Chamber expects significant numbers of people to come to the town, congregating on the Esplanade and beach.

Members agreed that the public toilets would need to be reopened, with extra hygiene and social distancing measures in place; the district council said afterwards that some toilets would reopen, with hand sanitisers and increased cleaning.

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The discussion moved on to how government support and Treasury measures could be channelled towards Sidmouth businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector.

Mr. Jupp confirmed he is working closely cross-party with councils and Westcountry MPs to try to ensure the South West was not forgotten or neglected, and he said he wanted to see further funding to support the tourist industry.

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Several members emphasised the importance of keeping parking charges low, once economic recovery begins, in order to not discourage visitors and shoppers.

It was generally agreed that the Government must take all reasonable steps to ensure that local authorities do not seek to restore their finances by increasing parking charges.

A Chamber spokesperson said: “The virtual meeting was well attended, and a free-flowing discussion took place.

“We were very grateful for the participation of our MP, who has shown a keen interest in local issues and is clearly focused on ensuring that we recover from the impact of the coronavirus as speedily and effectively as possible.

“We are reassured that Sidmouth’s voice is being heard in the corridors of power.

“We look forward to continuing to engage with our MP and our local authorities to do our best collectively to deal with these very challenging times.

“We also want to emphasise that we must all do our very best to ensure that local residents and visitors stay safe.”

Read more here about the town council’s plans to make Sidmouth the ‘safest and best’ destination for visitors.

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