When the Prime Minister announced the changes to lockdown in the House of Commons, Mr Jones asked him if he agreed that “councils should be encouraged to use available spaces to help the hospitality sector reopen, while of course ensuring social distancing?”
Mr Jones commented:
I was talking about using squares, streets and pavements as spaces for hospitality businesses to expand into, to help them welcome back their customers and comply with the social distancing rules. The reason that I asked that question is the importance of the hospitality sector to our local economy. The Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency is in the top 10 per cent of all constituencies in the country for hospitality, as measured by the number of people who work in it. That is almost 9,500 people in our case, making it the largest sector of the local economy.
I was pleased with the reply from the PM. So much has been done to support business, that now we are starting to see a new sector plan for reopening there is the opportunity for further support.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants want to re-open but social distancing requirements risk making some of them unviable. Mr Jones wants the County Council to put in place temporary pedestrianisation measures to support the hospitality industry on parts of our town centres.
Mr Jones commented:
Our local councils have done a great job during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve got grants to affected businesses, supported residents, made sure protective equipment has got to care homes with only a few problems alongside a multitude of other success stories. I am grateful to them for their achievements which have made a difference to people’s lives.
Now I am asking the County Council to continue this help by saving people’s livelihoods with a positive response to calls from hospitality businesses to provide space on the highway for them to be able to expand on to the highway.
Ideally we should give businesses certainty and so I am asking the County Council to look at a three-month window – from now until the end of September – during which businesses can use the public highway. Conversations with local businesses are required to specify when and where. It would not be every street every day. Flexibility is the key.
The Borough Council has signalled that it will act swiftly on licensing issues to enable this to happen but the key lies with the highways authority which is the County Council. That is why I will be having an urgent conversation with the Chief Executive of North Yorkshire County Council to ask him to take a personal interest in the issue.
Mr Jones continued:
With car-free spaces, cafes, pubs and restaurants able to expand into the space created we can create a place where people want to come, are able to enjoy our town centres safely we will be able to get our hospitality and retail sectors moving quickly saving jobs and livelihoods.
This one action will enable our streets to go from being the deserts of lockdown to busy but safe symbols of the revival of our towns.