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Newbury town centre experiences footfall boost after lockdown 3

A POST-LOCKDOWN boom hit Newbury last week, with shoppers venturing out of lockdown to boost footfall and support local businesses.

Shops, hospitality and leisure venues opened their doors last week for the first time in months, following the Government roadmap out of lockdown.

And, helped by some sunshine, visitors flocked to Newbury town centre, giving the town its busiest week since before the pandemic began.

Shoppers back in Northbrook street (46090608)
Shoppers back in Northbrook street (46090608)

Newbury Business Improvement District (BID) monitors footfall in Northbrook Street and recorded 132,060 people, a 52.5 per cent increase compared to the 86,612 in the previous week.

And there was a 196 per cent increase compared to the same week in 2020 (45,596 people) when the UK was at the height of the first lockdown. The 132,060 seen last week was the highest weekly footfall in Newbury since the week of March 9, 2020 when total footfall was 155,347.

CEO of Newbury BID, Melissa Hughes, said: “Last week was the closest we have been to normal levels of footfall in Newbury town centre for more than 13 months.

Shopping in Park way after Lockdown (46090642)
Shopping in Park way after Lockdown (46090642)

"Visitors were in good spirits, shop workers were delighted to be back, and it was great to see people respecting each other by wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing.

"There was a real buzz around town and a sense that we are finally emerging, albeit slowly and safely, from one of the most challenging times we've ever faced as a community.”

Covid marshals have been patrolling town and village centres, working with Thames Valley Police and the Public Protection Partnership to support and advise businesses and shoppers.

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said that feedback from the town centre had been "pretty positive" and that people were behaving appropriately and adhering to guidance.

Shopping in Parkway after Lockdown (46090626)
Shopping in Parkway after Lockdown (46090626)

She said: "The concern seems to be coming more from the rural areas and the concerns are being highlighted to us from members of the public.

"We are doing a campaign to ask residents to act sensibly and act appropriately.

"We have a duty to support our businesses and we need to be able to support them by not putting them in a difficult position. The businesses seem to be getting it right, it's now down to our residents' behaviour.

"We do want to be open for business and support our local businesses we just need our residents to act responsibly."

Excitement about returning to the town centre has been bolstered by the arrival of several new shops and venues, including The Bridal Dress Company in Mansion House Street, and The Sweet Box in Parkway, and follows the news of NEXT returning to the town in Parkway.

Mrs Hughes added: “Visitor numbers reached more than 75 per cent of the footfall we saw during the same week in April 2019, which compares positively to the 65 per cent seen on average across UK high streets.

"It’s the first time the 75 per cent of normal footfall mark has been exceeded since the pandemic began, which suggests that consumer confidence in Newbury is high and there’s a real desire to return to the town centre and support local businesses. Over the coming months, as we move through the next phases of reopening, we expect to see this support continue to grow."

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