‘Let’s get more atmosphere going in the town’ - Sidmouth traders urged to embrace the public spaces

Someday Something tea room. Picture: Maria McCarthy

Someday Something tea room. Picture: Maria McCarthy - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth traders are being urged to make the most of the newly-pedestrianised areas by spreading out on to the street with clothes stalls and outdoor cafes.

Town council chairman Ian Barlow said a lot of work and money had gone into providing spacious public areas, for social distancing, by closing off roads between 11am and 5pm.

He is surprised that few traders are taking advantage of the outdoor space, particularly since the county council is fast-tracking licence applications for bars and cafes to put tables outside.

Cllr Barlow said the Chamber of Commerce had requested the changes and he personally believes that customers would love to shop, eat and drink outside, preferably under covered areas in case of bad weather.

He said Sidmouth already has the advantage of the seafront, and now has a great opportunity to ‘get more atmosphere going in the town’.

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“We’ve got to give people a reason to come in, to feel they can come down and have a really nice experience with a great atmosphere around,” he said.

“Personally, in that market place area, I’d like to put almost a circus marquee there, with open sides so you can still walk through, but if it’s raining you can still have chairs and tables there, so people can get a takeaway coffee and just chat.

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“This isn’t the chamber of commerce view or the town council view, but this is about not just trying to do what we’ve always done, and look at what we can do going forward, that’s going to make us more appealing than every other town in the country that’s having the same problems.”

To create the new public spaces, Sidmouth Town Council had to apply to Devon County Council Highways for a temporary traffic order, obtain signage, buy bollards, and arrange for the barriers to be put in place every day at 11am.

Because of the need for social distancing, it was all put in place very quickly.

“This has enabled us to do something with a clear reason for doing it, it’s enabled us to not have to consult and go through as many hoops as we would normally have to do,” he said.

“Covid-19 has been a terrible thing, but there are opportunities that can be looked at as positive.”

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