MARKET towns and villages across north and west Wiltshire are working round the clock to make sure their local communities benefit from the lifting the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

With street markets resuming in many towns across the county, High Streets are beginning to come alive again with shoppers and visitors.

Business and civic leaders across Wiltshire have applauded the Gazette’s Backing Business Campaign, aimed at getting people to help save our Wiltshire High Streets.

With many shops, restaurants and other businesses now making preparations for the lifting of lockdown restrictions, the Gazette & Herald is asking readers to think local to give businesses a much-needed boost.

In Malmesbury, the Malmesbury Town Team has been working in partnership with Malmesbury town and closely with Malmesbury retailers and businesses to develop and implement plans for the safe and welcoming phased re-opening of shops, businesses and the hospitality sector.

The mayor of Malmesbury, Cllr Campbell Ritchie, said, ‘We submitted our plans in mid-May to Wiltshire Council and are working with them to create widened pavement areas and changed parking arrangements in our High Street and other key areas to accommodate queues and reduce narrow passing points in time for the next phases of reduced locked down restrictions.

"We will also be providing helpful information and signage for shoppers and visitors across the town centre and in our car parks."

Cllr Robert Meyrick, the mayor of Calne, said: “Smaller local companies have helped us through this time, they have supported community groups with much-needed funds, food and their time.

“Now is the time to remember as the High Street, industrial parks and small local businesses re-open to support them.

“They’re not wanting to be rich, they just want to make a living, offer employment and keep a dream of working for themselves alive.

“Please support the independents like they have supported our community.”

Calne Town Council funds two hours free parking in the Church Street car park just off the A4.

The car park offers access to the Heritage Quarter and town centre shops, café, restaurants, library and other businesses.

Marlborough’s town mayor, Cllr Mark Cooper, also backed the campaign, saying: “I fully support the Gazette & Herald’s buy local campaign and fully encourage everyone in the town to support and buy from the wonderful local independent retailers we have in Marlborough.”

In Corsham, the town council has re-introduced one-hour free parking now that Wiltshire Council has reinstated parking charges and parking restrictions across the county.

After surveying local businesses to gain feedback on how they coped with lockdown, the council has started work on a recovery plan for the town.

This will look at aspects including building public confidence, looking at what changes might be needed to the public realm and open spaces and, in particular, supporting Corsham’s economy.

Councillors are already talking to the town centre’s shops and businesses to find out what impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on them and how they feel about the future.

So far, around a third have been contacted and they include businesses who have been able to keep trading; those who have had to reinvent the services they offer, and those who are still closed and may be for some time yet.

While the impact of the lockdown has been either significantly or slightly negative for the majority, 85 per cent have benefitted from one or more of the government’s business support initiatives, enabling them to furlough staff and obtain funding.

Most positive, though, is the finding that 96 per cent of the businesses are genuinely optimistic about the future.

Council chairman Cllr Steve Abbott said: “We are encouraging people to shop local - obviously while still following the social distance guidelines which will be with us for some while yet - and support all the businesses in the town.

“That is the best way we can all help. By shopping local we can say thank you to those that were able to stay open and have been there for us over the last couple of months and also welcome back the businesses that had to close as they re-open.”

He added:”I think a very strong and positive message emerges that the businesses are ready to get going again - including those that will have a longer lockdown such as pubs and cafes, and those that provide personal services - and they and their employees have benefited significantly from the Government’s support initiatives. It’s good news for the town.

“We are keen to talk to the larger companies on the industrial estates and, inevitably, there will be one or two not-so-good news stories from other areas of the local economy.”

“We’re about to launch another survey aimed at those working in the Arts as we know this is a sector that is struggling.

“Those working on short-term or zero hours contracts, and self-employed people who have a short record of earnings, are likely to have suffered most as a result of the lockdown.

“The town council will do its best to support the local economy, and particularly the town centre businesses, as we move forward into a recovery period, after what has been an unprecedented time for us all.

“The information we’re collecting will enable us to do as much as we can to help restore our vibrant town centre.”

In Trowbridge, the town’s Chamber of Commerce and Invest in Trowbridge have been working in partnership to promote local businesses online in order to keep them afloat.

Kez Garner, the new President of Trowbridge Chamber of Commerce, said: “I and other local businesses have spent lockdown time promoting local businesses online.

“Many of those have started manufacturing products such as cakes, bread, face masks etc at home for the first time, selling from home or from premises from the doorstep and shorter hours, and delivering directly to customers.”

“Carrying this on, we would like to help create a database of ‘Trowbridge delivers’ for ongoing trading after lockdown.

“We have been updating our Chamber of Commerce business database, website, social media and calendar of events for as soon as face-to -face business networking can commence.

“We are looking for a hub where business owners, landlords, market traders etc can come to connect and look for shared/temporary premises in the town.

“We also have the Innox Market and Weavers Market in our group working out how they can relaunch street markets as soon as possible with crowd control/social distancing measures.