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Trade in St Helier picks up

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RETAILERS in St Helier are experiencing a positive rise in footfall and levels of trade as lockdown restrictions are eased.

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Congestion in Sand Street car park epitomised a busy pre-Father’s Day Saturday, although there is concern that weekday trade will take longer to recover.

And, in a move that they say will help retail as well as hospitality, the Chamber of Commerce has called for the government to take faster and more decisive action to reopen borders and communicate any such decision to do so.

St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft, meanwhile, paid tribute to the range and quality of shops in the town centre, and said he was doing what he could to encourage more people back to town.

‘It’s not just about shopping – we want to see people using restaurants and cafés as well as shops,’ he said. ‘It was very encouraging to see more and more premises using the al fresco opportunities that exist and have expanded with the closure of Broad Street.

‘We are working very hard as a parish and currently have more than 20 venues who are looking to expand outside.’

Mr Crowcroft said that he would push for parking-related measures to incentivise shoppers once car park charges resumed on 1 July.

‘Parking is an issue – not just the charges, but the fines that people incur often through a small mistake,’ he said. ‘I have suggested having a “free after three” initiative, and I also think more could be done to promote Pier Road, which typically has lots of space and would benefit from a hopper bus link with the centre of town.’

Cutting the extent of physical distancing from two metres to one would also play a part in encouraging shoppers back, Mr Crowcroft added.

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David Warr of Cooper’s Coffee said trade last Saturday at his shop in Halkett Place had been on a par with ‘pre-Covid levels’.

‘I sense that as long as retailers are getting the distancing and other protective measures right, then they will get support from customers,’ he said. ‘Having free parking at present has been a mixed blessing, as there hasn’t been the turnover of spaces that you’d normally find.’

But Mr Warr said he was concerned about weekday trade.

‘Town is still suffering massively from the lack of office workers – we need people back at their desks,’ he added.

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Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis announced last week that free parking at all government car parks, introduced on 30 March at the start of lockdown, will cease at 8am on 1 July.

The suspension of charges has had a significant impact on government revenue, with a spokesperson saying that income of approximately £500,000 per month had been lost.

The spokesperson said that the revenue parking charges generated was primarily used for funding car parking services, and also paid for:

  • On-street policing that helped keep roads safe and traffic flowing, as well as being used for maintenance.
  • Long-term maintenance of car parking infrastructure, including concrete repairs, improvements and eventual replacement of the multi-storey car parks.
  • Construction of new public parking facilities, such as the underground spaces being built at Anne Court.
  • Funding the maintenance of 81 surface car parks around the Island, including 35 free car parks for beaches and coastal walks.
  • Contributing to transport initiatives such as concessionary bus fares for people with a disability, and improvements to road safety, accessibility and sustainable transport.

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