Alfresco dining and pier-end promenading are set to become the flavour of the summer after a financial boost from the government and an easing of limits on outdoor events and parking.

The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced a £56m “welcome back” fund to help coastal towns and high streets in England to reopen as restrictions are eased.

The money will enable councils to improve the “look and feel” of local areas with revamps of green spaces, expansion of outdoor seating and an increase in markets and pop-up food stalls. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government also said the funds could be used for publicity campaigns or to create events including markets and festivals.

Under the measures, pubs will also be allowed to host marquees in their gardens for the duration for summer, rather than the 28 days normally permitted, and caps will be introduced on private parking fines to encourage motorists to visit towns.

Coastal areas are to be a particular hotspot, with all English seaside resorts to receive support under funding designated for towns by the sea. About 70 councils will also benefit from “targeted, hands-on support” from the government’s high street taskforce – an “elite team of high street experts” who will offer advice of adapting to “meet changing consumer demands”.

Timeline

How England’s Covid lockdown will be lifted

Show

Step 1, part 1

All pupils and college students return fully.
People can meet one other person outside, not just for exercise. Care home residents can receive one regular, named visitor.
The “stay at home” order will otherwise stay in place.

Step 1, part 2

Outdoor gatherings allowed of up to six people, or two households if this is larger, not just in parks but also gardens.
Outdoor sport for children and adults will be allowed.
The official stay at home order will end, but people will be encouraged to stay local.
People will still be asked to work from home where possible, with no overseas travel allowed beyond the current small number of exceptions.

Step 2

The official outline plan states that the next steps will rely on data, and the dates given mean “no earlier than”. In step two, there will be a reopening of non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, and public buildings such as libraries and museums.
Most outdoor venues can open, including pubs and restaurants but only for outdoor tables and beer gardens. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol.

Also reopening will be settings such as zoos and theme parks. However, social contact rules will apply here, so no indoor mixing between households and limits on outdoor mixing.
Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools can also open but again people can only go alone or with their own household.
Reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities, but only for one household.
Funerals can have up to 30 attendees, while weddings, receptions and wakes can have 15.

Step 3

Again with the caveat “no earlier than 17 May”, depending on data, vaccination levels and current transmission rates.

Step 3 entails that most mixing rules are lifted outdoors, with a limit of 30 people meeting in parks or gardens.
Indoor mixing will be allowed, up to six people or, if it is more people, two households.
Indoor venues such as the inside of pubs and restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, play centres, cinemas and group exercise classes will reopen. The new indoor and outdoor mixing limits will remain for pubs and other hospitality venues.

For sport, indoor venues can have up to 1,000 spectators or half capacity, whichever is lower; outdoors the limit will be 4,000 people or half capacity, whichever is lower. Very large outdoor seated venues, such as big football stadiums, where crowds can be spread out, will have a limit of 10,000 people, or a quarter full, whichever is fewer.
Weddings will be allowed a limit of 30 people, with other events such as christenings and barmitzvahs also permitted.

This will be the earliest date at which international holidays could resume, subject to a separate review.

Step 4

No earlier than 21 June, all legal limits will be removed on mixing, and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Large events can take place.

Peter Walker Political correspondent

The boost for domestic tourist hotpots will come as a relief to many holidaymakers, as experts warn that foreign holidays seem unlikely. Europe has experienced a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with several popular destinations for Britons including France, Turkey and Italy entering new restrictions.

Jenrick said the measures would give cities, town and high streets “support to prepare for a great summer”.

“As we move to the next stage on the roadmap out of lockdown, we are all looking forward to being reunited with friends and family outdoors and making a safe and happy return to our favourite shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants,” he said.

“Our welcome back fund gives every city, town and high street support to prepare for a great summer. This funding will help councils and businesses to welcome shoppers, diners and tourists back safely.

“As soon as the roadmap allows, we need to get behind our local businesses and enjoy all that this country has to offer and that we’ve been missing so much.”

Labour said the fund did not go far enough, describing it as a “a drop in the ocean” and a poor supplement for the money cut from local councils in recent years. The shadow communities secretary, Steve Reed, also said the plans were vague.

“This is just a drop in the ocean compared to how much the Conservatives took away over a decade when they pushed our high streets and seaside towns into deep decline, and it’s not clear which areas will benefit,” Reed said.

“The Conservatives have done nothing to level the playing field between high street shops and online retailers. Now they want to hollow high streets out by selling off temporarily closed shops to wealthy developers so they can never reopen as shops again.”



This content first appear on the guardian

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