09:00AM, Friday 24 July 2020
Plans to draw visitors back to Windsor were shared by town manager Paul Roach at a virtual council meeting as it was revealed footfall is still down 40 to 50 per cent.
At the Windsor Town Forum on Wednesday, Mr Roach said there were 370,000 movements in and around Peascod Street in June, although this was an improvement from May.
He said: “As you can imagine back in March everything fell through the floor, car parking, footfall, occupancy rates, all fell through the floor.”
Car parking also improved in June but it is still down 65 per cent from this time last year and in April it was down 97 per cent.
Vacancy rates are at 7.5 per cent, which is about 26 empty units.
However, there are other venues which are not currently open, and if these close permanently then the figure will rise to 15 per cent, which will potentially mean between 50 to 55 empty units.
“It’s no consolation but this is being replicated across the country, we are not alone in that, that’s just the way it is,” Mr Roach added.
If these trajectories continue Mr Roach predicted things won’t ‘get to anything normal’ until Christmas, or 2021 and that is assuming there is the ‘steady increase that we’ve seen in the last two months’.
Cllr Ami Tisi (Lib Dems, Clewer East) said in the circumstances the town needs to be ‘even more ambitious and creative’ to draw people back.
Mr Roach explained there are ideas being considered, one of which is to create free access to ‘work hubs’ in the vacant units, complete with desks and wifi, in the hope it ‘keeps people coming in’.
He predicted retail ‘won’t completely go from the high street but it clearly is going to shrink’.
“How do we change that, and make sure whatever we put in is sustainable and move the town to a different plane?” he said.
Despite a reduction in air-travel, about 70 per cent of Windsor’s visitors are from within the country, so Mr Roach said there will also be a drive on trying to attract people from the UK to pay a visit to the town.
Deputy leader of the council and lead member for Windsor, Cllr Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle) said the change to the high street which was expected to take 10 years has happened ‘within a couple of months’.
“We have had some shops close, but we have actually had, amazingly, lots of shops opening as well, sustainable shops, so I think Windsor is in a great position,” she said.
“I think there’s a great opportunity and we’ve just got to do what we can to make the best of it and make it a success.”
Also during the meeting the forum was given an update from Thames Valley Police Inspector Tracey Croucher.
She said that during lockdown ‘real crime’ figures went down because ‘everybody was in their homes and off the roads but is now on the rise.
“Particularly violent crime, which we are going to need to keep an eye on,” she added.
Inspector Croucher said there was ‘a plan in place’ to combat anti-social behaviour as the night-time economy gets back on its feet, but did not divulge details as it ‘is evolving all the time’.
She said there is also a ‘a bigger piece of work’ to tackle anti-social behaviour at The Brocas by the Thames in Eton, which was recently 48-hour dispersal notice on the weekend of Saturday, July 4.
Watch the full meeting here.
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