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Mayor salutes ‘Rebooters’ behind the great ‘unlockdown’

11 June 2020

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As Cambridge and Peterborough get ready to raise the shutters and welcome shoppers and visitors back to city centres and high streets from Monday, Mayor James Palmer has praised the behind-scenes teams for their heroic effort.

James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough:

“People have worked late into the night for weeks to make this happen. Thanks to their epic work - volunteers, shop staff and managers, marshals, council officers, police, transport and highways strategists, everyone involved - our region has been rebooted and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough open for business next week.”

But Mayor Palmer warned that opening ‘non-essential’ retail premises and offices in the cities and towns across the county did not mean everything was normal and ‘business as usual’.

“It’s a joyful start for traders and customers, but people’s safety comes first. We must look after each other even more now. That means staying apart, following signs, barriers, and guidance from stewards, wearing face covering on public transport, but also walking and cycling in the fresh air whenever we can.  If Covid has brought leaner, greener transport, active travel, more agile working, and a greater sense of responsibility for our neighbours, that’s a big plus. We mustn’t squander all the good done by the Lockdown over months with a breakout of inconsiderate behaviour now.”

At the UK Government’s request, Mayor Palmer took charge of co-ordinating Cambridge and Peterborough’s great ‘unlockdown’ through the City Centre Exit Strategy group. He has been working closely with a range of expert partners to develop joint action for rescue and recovery.

For the past months, local MPs, council chiefs and business leaders have also used the Mayor’s Forum to shape the region’s economic bounceback, and to give the UK Government, through Mayor Palmer, feedback on what the region needs to weather the Covid-19 fallout.

The Mayor’s Forum has co-ordinated the county-wide efforts to kickstart the regional economy, keep people safe, and attract customers back to the shops as the C-19 restrictions are eased. 

At today’s Forum, Mayor Palmer said many stores and offices in the region’s great cities and market towns are now fully geared to open on Monday with active travel arrangements, queue management, and in-store safety measures in place.  He said a phased return was likely, with some shops opening later.

Last week, the Board of the Combined Authority approved £2.9 million for cycleways and footpaths - £575k for urgent upgrades to get more people walking and biking within the next 8 weeks.

The money, awarded after Mayor Palmer presented the partners’ package of ‘active travel’ plans to the Department for Transport, is aimed to help Cambridgeshire people to cycle or walk instead of crowding cheek-by-jowl into buses or jamming the roads with cars.

The Mayor’s Forum also cascades best practice from the city teams to towns across the region, spreading the benefit of plans already hammered out.

The Mayor’s message is to shop locally, stay apart from others in community space and on public transport, and follow guidance when moving around. If Monday’s re-opening goes well over time, it may help a swift return of open-air cafés, restaurants and pubs this summer.  

“The new Normal will look different but people can still smile and have a chat through plastic counter screens. Expect one-way systems for going around stores, no changing-rooms in the clothing shops, and lots of hand gel on offer.  Out in the streets, there’ll be hi-vis stewards to advise you on where to walk, there’ll be vehicle restrictions, and very few public toilets open.  But it all adds up to reclaiming our streets – and doing it with people’s safety in mind.”  

Hailing the effort of ‘the region’s Rebooters’ who have unlocked the towns and cities, Mayor Palmer said the reopening was a great day for the cities, their citizens, their workers and their visitors.

James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough:

“This ‘unlockdown’ is a monumental feat of partnership, people from every corner of the county working together to reboot our region and jump start our shopping centres and workplaces safely and smoothly. But relaxing the lockdown doesn’t mean we can relax ourselves – we must be vigilant, keep up the handwashing, stagger our journeys, and give each other space, but we can and should start to reclaim our freedoms and our world.”