PLANS to ensure that shoppers and staff can feel safe while shopping and working in the town centre are being finalised.

Cheshire West and Chester Council says that having confidence about personal safety is the most important priority in plans to support businesses when reopening.

Emphasis is to be placed on how public footpaths can be used safely, with proposals including the widening of footways and use of one-way walking systems to ensure effective social distancing

The council says it will also support businesses with managing public land and highways outside their premises to allow safe queuing, while car parking, bus stations and taxi ranks will also be looked at.

Shoppers have got used to the queuing measures adopted by supermarkets, and as shops reopen, similar actions will be seen on high streets to maintain a safe number of people inside shops.

Northwich and Winsford town centres are among the key areas that the council will be focusing on, alongside Chester city centre, Ellesmere Port, Frodsham and Neston.

A toolkit with guidance will be produced for town and parish councils, smaller high streets and shopping areas.

Last week, the council was awarded £305,395 from the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund, which will help taking forward some of these initiatives so that businesses can re-open safely.

Alongside these initiatives, the council is supporting an extensive programme of schemes to encourage walking and cycling and will be looking to support businesses with more ‘al fresco’ dining areas wherever possible, so people can spend time in open while maintain appropriate distances.

Cllr Karen Shore, deputy council leader and cabinet member for environment, highways and strategic transport, said: “We are entering the next phase of tackling Covid-19.

“It is important to remember that the virus hasn’t gone away, so the measures we are taking are to protect lives whilst also starting the careful process of reopening our high streets.

“The measures we are introducing will rely on the co-operation of everyone.

“The actions we are taking will be constantly reviewed and I look forward to a time beyond the crisis where we can freely come together.

“But for now, we must do everything we can to maintain the distancing measures that will reduce the chances of a second wave.

“We will continue to work with all our partners in town centres across the borough to support businesses to re-open with customer safety as a top priority.”