On Friday we lost a great servant who dedicated his life to Her Majesty The Queen, setting a powerful example of selfless public duty. On our behalf, the Council Chairman Cllr Martyn Ashford has written to express sincere condolences to the Royal Family. A period of national mourning has begun and will continue until the morning of the funeral, next Saturday 17 April.
After a fabulous bank holiday weekend where ‘the rule of six’ meant that we could meet up with our friends and family outdoors, today we move to Step 2 on the Roadmap. The long-awaited reopening of our town centres will mean that our non-essential retail shops can safely open their doors. Cafés, bars and restaurants will also be open for business, offering outside table service to groups of up to six people, from no more than two households. We just need the great British weather to get the same email! Before we head off for your retail therapy and to enjoy local culinary delights, let’s take a moment to check-out the latest Government guidance to make sure we’re staying safe.
Supporting the efforts of our local businesses to reopen safely, webinars are available covering a number of key topics such as testing, vaccinations and dealing with cancellations. Free to join, find more details on the webinars, here.
Our weekly markets in Warwick and Kenilworth have throughout the lockdown periods offered essential stalls for residents, with covid-safe measures in place. CJ’s Events, our market operators are now adding non-essential stalls, which gives us even more reason to come out and support these brilliant local businesses. They are resuming accepting cash payments as well as card payments, for added convenience. Monthly markets are also planned for Leamington Spa’s Covent Garden Quarter, with the first on the last Sunday in April.
Our leisure centres and indoor pools reopen today, which will enable us all to get back to our health and fitness routines. Having already opened outdoor courts on the 29 March, Step 2 now allows for indoor sports for individuals, households and under 18’s, including swimming, racquet sports and gym sessions. Strict social distancing, cleaning and hygiene protocols remain in place and advance booking is essential. Everyone Active has been busy with over 1,750 swims, workouts and courts already pre-booked!
There are now many opportunities for us all to get out and about to enjoy all the open spaces and outdoor activities that the council has to offer: the district’s outstanding public gardens and country parks have remained open for us all, as well as our cycle track at Campion Hills. Tennis courts, skate parks and the athletics track reopened at the end of March and our Bowls Greens at Victoria Park will reopen this week.
So we can all enjoy these popular parks, gardens and recreational areas, we’d be grateful for your help keeping them as attractive and welcoming as possible. If the bins are full, please use the next bin or take your litter home for recycling. To help encourage a joint effort, we’re also working with other local government authorities, promoting the Don't be a Tosser campaign, to highlight our shared responsibility for our much-loved outdoor spaces.
Help is also available for our local businesses as they prepare to reopen. The latest Restart Grants for the leisure and hospitality sectors are one-off payments of between £2,667 to £18,000, depending on the rateable value and type of business. So far over 700 applications have been made online, with the first payments being made this week. More information about grants and the application criteria can be found on our website. In addition, there is now grant help for our taxi drivers and private hire firms, with a new Additional Restrictions Grant scheme launched. Find out more about the criteria for this grant scheme and how to make an application on our website, here.
In our continued fight against Covid, 55.2% of our adult population have now had their first jab, with the tally rising over the last week from 69,802 to 71,643. If you’re fifty years or older, you can book your appointment now, by contacting your GP, through the booking system or calling 119. For second doses of the vaccine, we can expect to be contacted about 11 weeks after the first one, which will be of the same type and given at the same vaccination centre. If you’re interested in tracking the roll-out of the vaccination programme in Warwick District, then check-out the up-to-date local statistics on our vaccination rates.
Stepping up the community testing is vital if we’re to keep a check on infection rates and quickly attend to local outbreaks. We’re encouraged to take two lateral flow tests each week which are easy to do, either by visiting any of the six sites across the district for community testing, or by ordering tests to do at home.
This week positive progress has been made with the Recovery Plan, with news that land at Gallows Hill has been purchased to develop a new purpose-built BMW centre. This scheme forms part of a wider community-based development for the area which is planned to include a hotel, community stadium, athletics track, a park, as well as new housing and extensive improvements to the highways, footpaths and cycle tracks.
Nearby, the construction of the Lower Heathcote Local Centre, located next to Heathcote Primary School, is set to get underway. Heart of England Co-operative is to be the anchor operator with the other four retail units to be let to a variety of businesses, which may include a dentist, bistro and health and beauty salon. The community-focused area will include new offices for L&Q Estates and the first Little Pioneers nursery in Warwick for up to 100 children aged between 0-4 years. Little Pioneers is part of the Midcounties Cooperative Group, whose headquarters are at Warwick Technology Park. Also, Cinnamon Care Collection is to operate a 75-ensuite bedroom care home which will create around 70 jobs. At the heart of the development will be a public square with landscaping and seating, being easily accessed for local residents, both by foot and bicycle.
Finally, in further step towards our closer working with Stratford District Council, we will be holding our first joint committee meeting this Wednesday 14 April at 6pm. Councillors are coming together to begin work on a joint local plan for South Warwickshire to ensure important decisions around planning and development are taken collectively. You can find out more about this on our website here and of course, join the meeting on our Youtube channel.
Keep smiling and stay safe.