PLANS are being finalised to reopen Colchester town centre for trade as retailers look to get back to business as coronavirus restrictions are relaxed.

Government restrictions are set to be eased further on June 15, with all non-essential retailers permitted to open to the public.

However, businesses must adhere to strict new guidelines around social distancing and health and safety practises.

Our Colchester Business Improvement District has brought together the key players as part of its Covid-19 Recovery Task Force and together plans are being drawn up to reopen safely.

BID manager Sam Good said: “Our plan for coronavirus was broken up into four steps - crisis, pre-recovery, recovery and transformation.

“We are now in the pre-recovery stage where some aspects of lockdown are being lifted.

“Three weeks ago, we launched a recovery taskforce which includes Colchester Council, Essex County Council, the shopping centres and all the key stakeholders in the town centre.

“The reason we created it is because we want to reopen as one town rather than everyone doing different things.”

The taskforce has been working on a town centre layout plan, which will guide efforts to ensure shoppers stick to social distancing rules.

Mr Good said: “We are focusing our efforts at the BID on pinch points in the town centre where social distancing could be more difficult, such as Eld Lane or Bank Passage.

“In these areas we will be installing floor walkway signs to direct people.”

The BID is also set to install 25 hand sanitiser stations in the town, focusing on areas where people arrive such as car parks.

Residents will be encouraged to always stick to the left of streets and walkways and travel in the direction of the flow of pedestrians.

Careful planning is also going into the issue of queuing and how to avoid large groups of people in the town’s shopping streets.

Mr Good said: “A lot of the work has been around businesses’ capacity for social distancing.

“We are releasing a queuing brief which will give them something to work towards.

“Our ambassadors will be patrolling the town and monitoring queues and getting people to queue in the correct way.”

Businesses and community groups across the town will use the hashtag #WelcomeBackColchester to promote new rules and guidelines for shoppers.

Mr Good said: “There is a lot we are relying on the members of the public for and all we can do is guide them and give them clear advice.

“We are trying to give people the confidence the town centre is as safe as it can be.

“We have got an opportunity to demonstrate to residents how great Colchester can be and how we are one business community.”