Wakefield city centre street is pedestrianised from today to encourage outdoor cafe-bar culture
Wakefield’s restaurant and bar scene will be served more support when a temporary pedestrian area is created to help establishments expand.
Visitors will be given a taste of al fresco dining and cafe culture on Northgate when the trial is introduced from Friday July 10, closing the road to traffic from Cross Street to the Bullring.
This will allow hospitality businesses reopening after lockdown the chance to expand their eateries by extending onto the street to help mitigate lost seating due to current social distancing rules.
With warmer, drier weather forecast for this weekend the city centre is expecting another rise in visitors after last Saturday marked the first phase of reopening for cafes, bars, restaurants and personal care like hairdressers and barbers.
The closure will be regularly monitored to ensure it remains an appropriate action before a final decision is then made. Barriers and planters will be put in place as part of the closure, but emergency vehicles will still have access and vehicles can still get in and out of the car park at Woodhead Place.
The move is being led by Wakefield Council to back businesses as part of its new drive to reignite the hospitality sector across the district, which includes an advertising and awareness campaign based on the ‘Enjoy It. Safely Does It’ message.
The aim is to create public confidence in visiting restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars again but doing so safely – alongside direct support for businesses to reopen safely. A business restart pack has already been created and distributed to thousands of businesses to help them get up and running the coming days and weeks.
Coun Darren Byford, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Growth, said: “Given the amount of great places to eat that are based along Northgate, it’s perfectly positioned to develop a café culture over time.
"To do that, we need to support the great work these businesses are doing by trialling road closures such as this – anything that can be done to support reopening businesses after lockdown absolutely should be done.
“Any change can bring an element of concern for some – they always do, but we firmly believe there will be many positives from this in both a business and cultural sense. We will listen, learn and develop this as part of our wider plan to boost the city centre.
“Of course we don’t expect our new Northgate based cafe culture to happen overnight. It’s a gradual process that is likely to steadily unfold over a few weeks, as more hospitality businesses begin to reopen and the summer weather kicks in. We want to do this safely and cautiously and the way the new space on Northgate is used will develop over time.
“Any changes that we make to our public spaces are always focused on supporting businesses, residents and visitors. As ever our priority is ensuring that everyone stays safe and has a great time when they come and visit our vibrant towns and city centre.”
Coun Matthew Morley, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Highways, said: “We need to be more creative and adapt to the needs of our businesses. That’s why we’re taking action to help them expand their footprint by branching out on to the street. It’s especially important to give restaurants and cafes every chance to host as many people as possible and safely.
“The number of car parking spaces removed is minimal and most vehicles driving along that stretch are often just passing through. We hope over time this will hopefully boost everyone’s business, not just the hospitality sector, as more people visiting more often will see what else that part of the city has to offer. After such a long time in lockdown, I’d encourage people to venture back into the city centre and enjoy what these diverse, quality restaurants and cafes have to offer.”
Wakefield business owner Antony De Csernatony is welcoming back old and new customers, after successfully reopening his business with the support of the Council. He is feeling optimistic about the future and said: “Since reopening the doors of KRA:FT Barbers we’ve literally hit the ground running. All have clients have been so understanding with regards to new measures we’ve had to implement; PPE etc.
"We’re very fortunate to have built a client base who’ve proven themselves to be very loyal. However we’ve also seen a large influx of new faces which is really encouraging for the future. Overall, we’re simply happy to be back behind the chair striving to provide the highest level of service we can.”
The council has provided information and guidance on its dedicated coronavirus information web page at bit.ly/CoronaWFD