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Read how local businesses are adapting and thriving in low traffic areas

Improving our residents’ access to safer streets, green spaces and cleaner air is important to us. So is the prosperity of our local businesses as the local economy starts to pick up following lockdown. Over the past several weeks we have been working with local businesses who are trading in areas where we have implemented temporary COVID-19 transport measures, such as creating more space for pedestrians on high streets and on streets with modal filters (temporary road closures designed to reduce vehicle traffic and create safe pedestrian/cycle space as a response to COVID-19).

We recently caught up with one local business, Parlez, to find out how their business has changed during the coronavirus and the introduction of modal filters on Coulgate Street in Brockley.

How has the Council supported you and your business during COVID-19?

The Council has been great through this whole situation. Communication has been easy from the beginning and we’ve received much-need support that’s enabled our business to navigate choppy waters. We successfully applied for a retail and hospitality grant back in April and have been involved in discussions around pedestrianising Coulgate Street. The road closure is the first in Lewisham and was supported by the Government's outdoor seating proposal, which has enabled our business to provide outdoor dining while working within social distancing guidelines. We're looking to build on the opportunity to work with our local authority, and COVID-19 offers a unique opportunity for the public and private sector to come together to create positive change at a local level. We're grateful to be in a borough that's progressive and forward-thinking about how to aid economic recovery.

How has COVID-19 impacted trade?

Trade has slowly increased following lockdown. At first, customers only wanted to sit outside but now they’re choosing to sit inside as well. I think this is because their confidence has grown with the COVID-19 measures in place. We've always aspired to be a place that helps the neighbourhood feel at home, and if anything, it feels like we've become more settled in Brockley since lockdown has eased. We're no longer a new business, and we've built trust within the community. Inclusivity is paramount to what we do and we're mindful of gentrification, so it's always reassuring to see a mix of people at Parlez, especially after lockdown and months of social isolation. People need to be together. Our outside space still remains very important to us as it allows us to cater for a larger number of customers, whilst adhering to social distancing guidance. The mix is good. We’ve also seen an increase in trade Monday – Wednesday with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Has the temporary road closures helped customers to enjoy their dining experience?

Yes. It gives us much more space as we are now able to provide more space between tables. It’s too early to say whether the new measures will lead to an increase in business but we’re hopeful. Going forwards we hope to make further use of the outside space with more public seating, pop up food stalls or maybe even a market. The winter season will bring new challenges, so we're exploring how to find solutions that'll help when the weather turns. We strongly believe in bringing people together and COVID-19 could create a sea-change in how our streets are used more creatively. We want to be at the forefront of this change and it’s an exciting opportunity to do something creative and fun. As a business, we align with the National Planning Policy Framework (2019) guidelines on healthy and safe communities by promoting social interaction in a safe and accessible way. Going forward, we'll double down on this commitment to support healthy lifestyles in Lewisham.

Have you had much feedback from customers about the temporary road closures?

The feedback so far has been positive. The common feedback is that the road has always felt like it suited pedestrianisation. I now hear comments as to how cosmopolitan it feels and how a new common place area next to the station is a positive.
Temporary road closures - modal filters - have been introduced as part of COVID-19 measures to improve air quality across London and provide pedestrians and cyclists with space to social distance whilst commuting throughout the borough. Evidence also shows that those who walk to a high street spend 40% more than those who drive, and that high street walking, cycling and public realm improvements can increase retail sales by up to 30%.

To find out more head to the Commonplace website.

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