Oxford City Council prepares city for end of lockdown

Published: Wednesday, 2nd December 2020

Oxford City Council has prepared the city for the end of the lockdown.

The City Council is putting on additional city centre stewards, carrying out more street cleaning and extending the opening hours of public toilets.

The aim is to help support businesses to reopen, while also making sure the city centre is as safe as possible for members of the public to return.

The Government has allowed shops to extend their opening hours in the run-up to Christmas, and Cardiff saw large queues of shoppers after the city moved out of lockdown last month (November).

The City Council has also worked with Oxfordshire County Council to support businesses by providing free parking at the city’s park and rides during December.

What Tier 2 means for shops and hospitality

Oxford and Oxfordshire moved out of lockdown and into Tier 2 today (2 December).

Under lockdown, Oxford residents were encouraged to stay home and were only allowed to meet with one other person outside. Now, under Tier 2, the city is back to the Rule of Six – you can meet people outside in groups of up to six people.

Under Tier 2, though, Oxford residents can only meet socially indoors – including in private homes and in pubs and restaurants – with people they either live with or have formed a support bubble with.

The new Tier 2 rules mean most hospitality businesses and retailers can now reopen for rule of six outdoors and one-household groups indoors. Pubs and bars can only sell alcohol for consumption on their premises if it is with a substantial meal.

Visitor attractions, including museums, and accommodation providers can also reopen in Oxford – providing the businesses are COVID secure.

For more information about the Tier 2 rules, please visit the Government’s website.

Between 23 and 27 December, the Government will introduce special Christmas rules on social contact.

Street cleaning

The City Council’s wholly-owned company ODS will increase the number of people cleaning the city centre’s streets to a minimum of 16 throughout each day, seven days a week.

With shops opening later, the team will also increase their operating hours so that officers start at 5am as normal but run through to 8.30pm. Over the summer, street cleaning finished at 6.30pm each day.

ODS will continue to maintain its cleaning regime, dubbed ‘the Oxford Standard’, that was launched in June following the end of the first lockdown. The standard means more deep cleaning, hot washing, steam cleaning and sanitising of the main areas of the city centre to help keep people safe.

The changes will start today (2 December).

Public toilets

To reflect the later opening hours of shops, the City Council will also extend the opening times of public toilets in the city centre.

The public toilets in Gloucester Green and Market Street normally operate between 9am and 5pm, but in the run-up to Christmas they will open until 7pm.

ODS will also clean the toilets up until 7pm.

The changes will start today (2 December).

Hand sanitisers will continue to be provided in the public toilets and the entrances to the Covered Market.

Additional stewarding

The City Council will employ six people to act as stewards in the city centre every day between today (2 December) and 10 January.

The stewards will work between 9am and 5pm between Monday and Saturday, and 10am to 5pm on Sunday.

Their role will be to help people maintain social distancing, support members of the public in need of assistance, and provide information to businesses about the Government’s latest coronavirus rules.

It is the responsibility of individual businesses to manage the queues outside their premises, but the stewards will be on hand to provide businesses with information and support to help manage this successfully.

Normally, the City Council employs two City Centre Ambassadors to help manage issues in the city centre.

Separately, the COVID Secure Team will also patrol the city centre and other high-footfall areas during the day and into the evening every night up to midnight. Evening visits will also be carried out by Licensing Officers to ensure compliance with the new regulations.

The COVID Secure Team, which is a joint initiative by all Oxfordshire’s councils and is backed by Government funding, visits businesses to provide them with the latest information and guidance about how to comply with the Government’s coronavirus rules – and take action against those that are not.

The team works closely with Thames Valley Police and both universities, including the university’s internal security teams.

New signs

The City Council will install a new set of signs and stencils throughout the city centre, in other retail areas across the city and outside Oxford’s parks.

The new signs and stencils will remind people of the Rule of Six, and the need to wash hands, wear a face covering and maintain social distancing.

The City Council installed similar signs and stencils across the city in the summer after Oxford moved out of the first lockdown.

Oxford Covered Market

The Covered Market has been open throughout the lockdown for essential businesses, takeaways from cafes and restaurants, and click and collect.

With the end of lockdown, the market’s retailers and hospitality businesses will be open as normal from today (2 December). Sunday trading will also be reinstated.

The Covered Market will now open from 7am – rather than the normal 8am – between Monday and Saturday. An extension to opening hours at the end of the day in the run-up to Christmas is also being discussed.

The City Council, which manages the market, has hired stewards to help people maintain social distancing and help traders manage queues in the market’s narrow avenues.

Starting this week, there will be one steward on Fridays and Sundays, and two on Saturdays, until Christmas. The number of stewards and the days of their operation could be increased in the coming weeks, if needed.

During lockdown the City Council teamed up with traders to install a Christmas tree – donated by The Garden of Oxford – and decorations.

Separately, LSD Promotions, which manages Gloucester Green Market, has announced that the Wednesday to Sunday markets will resume from today (2 December).

Further support for businesses

While Oxford is in Tier 2, pubs, bars and other food businesses can only sell alcohol for consumption on their premises if it is with a substantial meal – i.e. they will need to operate as if they are restaurants.

Pubs and bars cannot allow customers to arrive with their own food – but they are allowed to team up with a restaurant or caterer to serve food to tables in the premises.

The City Council is helping support this by advising licensed businesses wishing to change how they operate so they can do this safely and within the law.

Separately, the City Council is working with Oxfordshire County Council to support Oxford’s businesses by offering free parking at park and rides,

The free parking will run from Saturday (5 December) through to Sunday 27 December.

Oxford Bus Company – which operates services from the five park and ride sites – are supporting the initiative by running a '£4.80 per car maximum charge’ promotion, which will mean that any more than two adults in the same car will get their bus journey for free. Kids will go for free too.

The City Council, working with the County Council, has also pedestrianised areas of the city centre to provide cafés, pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating areas.

The outdoor seating areas – which have been created in roads including Cornmarket Street, St Michael’s Street, and parts of Broad Street – aim to support hospitality businesses that needed additional space to be able to operate on a commercial basis whilst maintaining social distancing.

The City Council, Experience Oxfordshire, Independent Oxford and The Oxford Times have also refreshed their campaign to support retailers this Christmas.

The campaign, which had been promoting online shopping to support Oxford traders during lockdown, now encourages residents to do their Christmas shopping in Oxford city centre.

“This has been an extremely difficult time for businesses, and the run-up to Christmas this year will be even more vital for many of them than normal.

“We are working closely with businesses to make it as easy as possible for them to reopen and extend their opening hours, while also making sure the city centre is as safe as possible for members of the public to return.

“Please support your local businesses by purchasing your Christmas presents in Oxford city centre.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for City Centre, Covered Market and Culture