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Letter to Tom Hunt MP: reducing the 2m rule

As leisure, tourism and hospitality businesses are calling for the 2m social distancing rule to be reduced in order for them to reopen; our Chairman, Terry Baxter, has written to Ipswich MP, Tom Hunt, requesting him to lobby for Government to act.

Read the full letter...

Dear Tom,

I would like to start by thanking you for your support in helping to open the town centre’s non-essential retail sector on 15th June as planned. The early signs are that the measures we have put in place are providing customers with the reassurance that they need and that they are returning in numbers.

However, the next stage of restarting the town centre economy relates to food and beverage businesses and this is proving much harder. As you know, we are working intensively with our other Vision partners to make whatever adaptions we can to assist this sector which been massively affected by the lockdown measures. We are actively looking at enabling these businesses to use sitting out areas around the town which will help them to reopen safely, whilst maintaining social distancing, and having sufficient covers to trade economically.

You will know that already there have been a number of ‘casualties’ within this group in Ipswich and there is a significant danger that more of our bars, restaurants and cafes will not reopen as a result of the extended period of zero trading.

The Government has given us an indication that it is possible that July 4th will see a re-opening for this sector which will be welcome, however there is a major stumbling block for many of these businesses, even if they get the green light to open their doors. Many of them operate from small premises that do not lend themselves to two metre social distancing and this needs to be addressed.

A number of countries are working to the one metre rule, which is approved by the World Health Organisation and on behalf Ipswich businesses, I am asking you to lobby your colleagues to bring the UK in line with that regulation. In addition, there is a real need to make this announcement well ahead of the 4th July, to allow businesses to make the preparations necessary for a smooth and well-planned reopening.

Secondly, government is requesting local authorities to be flexible on allowing businesses to seat customers outside of premises to better allow social distancing and extend the number of seats and tables that the premises may otherwise have. However, they are yet to define exactly what this greater flexibility entails, and yet we need these guidelines in order to prepare. Once again, I would ask you to lobby your colleagues to provide this guidance to all places as a matter of urgency.

This is a critical time for the hospitality sector and for the wider population of the town who have told us that they are greatly missing this important ‘social’ aspect of their lives. This was evidenced in significant research carried out recently by Ipswich Central, where one of the biggest drivers for encouraging people back into our town, was the ability to meet with friends and family in a safe environment. Bars, restaurants and cafes have the potential to provide that safe space, but they need the understanding and support from government now.

I do hope that you will urgently take this matter up on our behalf and, as always, I am happy to discuss further at any time.

Yours sincerely

Terry Baxter

Chair of Ipswich Central

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