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Four-fold increase in city centre visitors and £6m in additional support grants to Covid-affected businesses

Published: Thursday, 29th April 2021

Visitors to the city centre increased by a factor of four on the first day of non-essential retail stores reopening earlier this month, local data sources have revealed.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council cameras that monitor footfall in the city centre have shown that 24,592 people visited the centre’s main retail areas on 12 April, compared to 6,406 visitors the Monday before (5 April).

The data, which is unverified and so must only be treated as a guide, has been taken from cameras that concentrate on the main retail area of the city centre. The cameras have provided indicative data for the week of 12-18 April this year, compared to data they produced in 2020 and in 2019. The figures show that:

  • Between 12-18 April 2021, 138,410 people visited the city centre, compared to a total of 57,805 people the week before.
  • In 2020, between 12-18 April – when the first full national lockdown was being observed – 33,064 people visited the city centre.
  • In 2019, between 12-18 April – prior to the coronavirus pandemic – a total of 170,833 people visited the city centre.

The data has also been used to compare footfall figures with other UK cities using the same camera monitoring software. The figures, which again are indicative only and are not verified, suggest that the city centre is on a par with national averages for the decrease in visitors to the city centre for the year to date, compared to the same period in 2019. But the figures also suggest that Stoke-on-Trent has done much better than the UK average in terms of city centre visitors over the past 12 months, with visitor numbers down 19 per cent during this period compared to 2019, while the UK average was down by 31.1% during the same period.

Councillor leader Abi Brown said: “The figures can only be used as a guide, but what they do show is the impact of the coronavirus over the past 12 months, how well the lockdown restrictions have been observed, and how well prepared our city is to bounce back yet again from this virus.

“It is really encouraging to see footfall increasing in such a measured way, with the safety of shoppers and workers in mind. Stores are taking all the necessary steps to invite shoppers back safely. We know that the first day of shops reopening (12 April) was the busiest day during that first week of lockdown restrictions easing. We are still living under the national coronavirus restrictions and as such it is to be expected that footfall isn’t at the same level as it was in 2019. We know that our city has a track record of recovering strongly from the restrictions, and last summer when lockdown eased our high street spend and footfall was amongst the very highest in the region.

“But it is vitally important that we all continue to follow the public health guidelines. We’re grateful that people are doing this, and that venues aren’t being overcrowded. We want to thank businesses for all of the important and sensible precautions that they are following. We encourage people to continue to visit their local high street, towns and the city centre, and to do so safely.”

Meanwhile the council has moved quickly to issue a further £6,182,695 to businesses affected by the coronavirus in the hospitality, leisure, gym and sports, personal care, and non-essential retail sectors.

The money was issued last Friday (23 April) in the latest wave – phase four – of the national Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme. Over the past year, the authority has administered £52.7m to over 4,600 businesses in the city in small business, retail and hospitality grants, and £26.2m in other grants including funding for wet-led pubs over Christmas, earlier waves of the ARG scheme, and a grant for taxi drivers.

Councillor Brown said: “We yet again moved quickly so that this latest funding was allocated swiftly to businesses. The grants were paid to those businesses that had previously been successful in gaining ARG grants in phases one, two or three and that meet the eligibility criteria.

“We are really pleased that we have been able to offer our local businesses grants to help them reopen and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. We want to see our local businesses start to thrive again.”

Further information on business grants can be found at www.stoke.gov.uk/businessgrants

Meanwhile, the council’s director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, is urging people to look forward to the forthcoming bank holiday weekend safely, and to follow the public health advice, as coronavirus case rates continue to fall in Stoke-on-Trent.

The seven-day rate of coronavirus cases in the city is now 41.7 per 100,000 people, for the week 16 April – 22 April 2021. This is a decrease of 5.3 per cent on the previous seven days. The percentage of people who have had a test and tested positive is 1.6 per cent.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones said: “We are lucky enough to have two bank holidays in May with the first one this weekend. We know that many people will be spending time with loved ones outside, getting out to the shops or planning to book an outside table at the pub. Please do enjoy our city’s parks and attractions, but remember that we are still very much living with Covid-19 – it still exists, it’s still spreading and it is still making people poorly.

“To protect yourselves and to protect your loved ones, friends and families please continue to follow the hands, face, space and fresh air guidance. In particular, only meet people outside of your household/support bubble outdoors in groups of up to six people or as two households. Do not mix inside each other’s houses. Fresh air is known to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

“If you are seeing friends and family over the bank holiday take a lateral flow test first for peace of mind. You get the results in 30 minutes and the test takes less than five minutes to do. Protect your loved ones.

“Remembering and practicing these simple actions will make a huge difference, and will help us continue on the road to recovery and prevent the spread of this terrible virus.”