Suffolk creates safer spaces as communities begin to re-open during Covid-19 response

To ensure appropriate safety measures can be put in place for communities across Suffolk, the county council is working closely with its local authority partners, town councils and the business community to develop guidance and advice on how social distancing measures can be maintained as shops and businesses begin to re-open and current lockdown restrictions are relaxed over time.

This will include empowering local councils and the business community to make small-scale temporary changes to enable social distancing, without the need to seek consent from Suffolk County Council.

Where there is a requirement or desire for larger, more detailed changes to be made in the community, these will need to be discussed with county council officers to understand how this can be achieved.

Any of the temporary changes made during this time will be kept under review and Suffolk County Council will continue to work with its partners to adapt to government guidance and review what support is needed to help the local economy.

The council has received a number of enquiries and requests to date, asking for a range of measures related to creating safe spaces in local communities. These requests are being grouped into the following categories, to help the Council understand the highest priorities and what work is required in different areas of the county:

  • Small-scale changes – changes that communities can make themselves, without contacting Suffolk County Council. These will be local safety measures on pavements that outline queuing areas, social distancing reminders, or simple painted markings on pavement surfaces for pedestrians.
  • Medium-scale changes – changes that will require communities to contact Suffolk County Council for support. This will be anything that needs to happen off the pavement, or anything that Suffolk Highways will be required to deliver, such as temporary signs, barriers and cones. This may also include simple traffic regulation notices or orders, and licenses for seating, planters and other semi-permanent obstructions.
  • Large-scale changes – changes that will require communities to contact Suffolk County Council for support. This will include any road closures or extensive changes to how traffic is managed and semi-permanent works, such as painting lines on roads, pothole patching, or works such as installing dropped kerbs.

If the activity that the community wants to carry out requires working on, or in, the road, then the county council will need to be contacted. If communities are unsure where their proposed changes fit, they are encouraged to contact the county council at transport.schemes@suffolk.gov.uk.

Local councils and businesses should consider the following when carrying out small-scale changes in their communities:

  • Ensure communities work safely at all times when installing local measures; ensure activities are carried out on the pavement, not in the road; and aim to carry out works during quieter periods of the day.
  • Consider the needs of people with disabilities, such as wheelchair users or those with impaired visibility, and those with prams, double buggies or trollies to ensure they have sufficient space on the pavement to pass safely.
  • Consider the type of paint being used (i.e. it should be non-toxic) or consider using small thermoplastic markings of appropriate symbols that can be easily removed.
  • Laminated signs should be fixed to street furniture (such as lighting columns), with cable ties only to avoid damage. Consideration also needs to be given to having these signs at a safe height and ensuring they are visible.
  • Digging into the pavement or road is not permitted, nor is fixing anything to the floor, due to the possibility of there being underground cables and pipes.
  • Town councils should monitor and review signs and the condition of paint markings to ensure these are clear and safe.

Councillor Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs, said:

“We have received several requests from local town councils and business groups to make changes to the public highway as their usually-busy high streets and town centres begin to re-open following government lockdown.

“We are working closely with them all to implement these measures safely. As this work continues, we will produce further guidance and advice to support local communities who are keen to undertake some of this work themselves, but in the meantime I am pleased to begin to outline how we are planning to undertake this work and empower our communities where they are able and willing to do so.

“We have already supported Southwold Town Council to implement changes based on the above parameters.

“I am really pleased Suffolk County Council is taking a pragmatic approach in putting forward this guidance, and I thank officers for all their hard work in making this happen.”

Local areas should follow government guidelines on safer public spaces.

Read more about safer spaces on the highway.