Brent shops gearing up to reopen under new coronavirus guidelines
PUBLISHED: 13:20 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:11 10 June 2020
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Non-essential shops in Brent and around the UK are dusting off their shelves to reopen for business next week.
As part of the government’s three-stage lockdown easing strategy, all non-essential department stores, high streets and independents will be able to open on June 15 for the first time since late March.
Traders are making preparations in high streets including Harlesden, Kingsbury, Willesden, Kensal Rise, Kilburn, Neasden, Queen’s Park and Wembley.
However, they must follow Covid-19 guidelines and carry out a specific risk assessment.
The community protection team, neighbourhood management workers, regulatory service officers and town centre managers at Brent Council have been advising businesses of the new rules.
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Brent Council’s cabinet member responsible for high streets, Cllr Shama Tatler, said: “The easing of restrictions on these non-essential businesses will be a relief to many and hopefully support our valued local businesses, but it won’t be an immediate return to business as usual, as it was before lockdown began this year.
“We have to remember that sadly Brent has some of the highest number of Covid-19 deaths and cases in London.
“It is on all of us to remain vigilant, to maintain social distancing and help stop the spread of the virus.”
She said shoppers should expect queues, one-way systems, perspex screen and staff wearing PPE.
This includes at London Designer Outlet in Wembley, where more than half of the stores are set to reopen.
Opening hours have been reduced from 10am to 5pm to decrease employee contact hours and avoid peak-travel times, and most of the shops will not accept cash and limit the number of customers at any one time.
Cleaning routines have been intensified both during opening hours and overnight, and nine hand sanitiser posts have been stationed around Wembley Park.
Shoppers can also use store-to-door delivery service Dropit for hands-free shopping at London Designer Outlet free of charge from June 22.
The centre says these measures are scalable for when restaurants and cafes are allowed to open at a later date.
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General manager at London Designer Outlet, Sue Shepherd, said: “We are taking every precaution to ensure our guests and everyone who works here feels prepared and safe.
“We’ve worked hard to keep within all the government guidelines, while adding plenty of our own local initiatives.”
London Designer Outlet is also hoping to raise £5,000 for food bank Sufra by selling £2 tote bags from June 29.
Wembley Park Market, described as the area’s “go-to destination for local, independent produce and gifts”, is opening from June 16, operating on reduced hours from 11am to 4pm Tuesday to Sunday.
It has also introduced a click-and-collect service for online shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.
This all comes as Brent Central MP Dawn Butler is one of 55 politicians to sign a letter asking the chancellor of the exchequer, MP Rishi Sunak, to ensure that all businesses are adequately supported during the pandemic.
She said: “I have one of the most independent high streets in the country and I want to see it continue to thrive after this pandemic.
“I have been contacted by many businesses small and large, who have informed me they may have to close because they don’t qualify or are struggling to apply for the government’s grant schemes.
“Whether they are businesses operating out of the living room or are young tech start-ups, they all deserve support to survive this national crisis.”
Additionally, 660 Brent businesses will each receive £5,000 in additional Covid-19 funding if a plan to distribute £3.3 million received from the Government’s Discretionary Grants Scheme is approved by Brent’s cabinet.
However, Cllr Tatler said the extra funding is “nowhere near enough”: “It puts councils in a catch-22 situation, where if you spread the money too thinly across too many businesses, it makes little or no impact, but concentrate it too finely and many in desperate need will miss out.
“We want to make sure that this money which is available goes as far as possible, and so cabinet will be asked to consider this plan to distribute the £3.3m.”
If approved, eligible businesses will have one week to apply for a grant.
Car show rooms and outdoor markets were allowed to reopen on 1 June, but hairdressers, nail bars, beauty salons, pubs and clubs will remain closed until further notice.
Any shops breaching the new guidelines should be reported to Brent Council using firstname.lastname@example.org.
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