Sidmouth must ‘make this work’ as hospitality trade reopens, says town council chairman

Ian Barlow, chairman of Sidmouth Town Council. Picture: Ian Barlow

Ian Barlow, chairman of Sidmouth Town Council. Picture: Ian Barlow - Credit: Archant

The easing of lockdown restrictions has been welcomed by the town council chairman, but Sidmouth must adapt to help revive its vital tourist trade.

Greeting the news that hotels, pubs and restaurants can reopen from July 4, Ian Barlow said: “We have got to make this work”.

He said the council has done everything possible to enable social distancing, and anyone who is still worried can avoid busy periods, coming into town early or late in the day.

But he said the hospitality trade, and the public, must move forward.

He said: “I think people have got to start taking some personal responsibility.

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“We’ve put in the pedestrianisation of the centre of town, widening of pathways, etc, to give safety to our residents so that people can socially distance.

“But there are a lot of residents who say ‘we don’t want people coming, we love our town, we want to protect it’.

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“If the tourist industry doesn’t have a good few months there will be even more closures and difficulties going forward.

“If we don’t have the visitors, the town will not be the same next year, and I think a lot of the residents will not like the changes that will happen.

“If we’re not welcoming to these tourists we will all suffer, because those businesses will not be there to make our town as vibrant as we like it to be.”

The Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce also welcomed the relaxation of lockdown, and said it looked forward to a large number of Sidmouth businesses in the hospitality sector re-opening.

A spokesman said: ‘We are happy with the measures agreed with Devon County Council and Sidmouth Town Council to improve the safety of pedestrians using the town centre, which we think were wise and proportionate.

“The general view is that businesses will do their best to offer a high-quality service and provide a good welcome.

“However, the challenges of dealing with social distancing are very considerable, although the reduction to one metre will undoubtedly help a lot.

“It is important to stress that observance of social distancing is at least as much the responsibility of customers as it is that of business proprietors. So we do hope that everyone will behave reasonably and thoughtfully.

“We are very anxious that the Market Square toilets are opened as a matter of urgency. We appreciate that it is difficult for the district council but this should have happened before now.

“Much, of course, depends upon the weather; if we continue to see the sun shining then visitor numbers will be significant.

“The pandemic has certainly rocked many Sidmouth businesses, during a period that was already very challenging, especially in the High Street.

“However, our impression is that many businesses have been actively preparing for the return of customers and we are quietly confident that this will be successfully managed.’

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