With lockdown measures eased a little to allow groups of up to six to meet outdoors, I’m sure many of you will be looking forward to seeing loved ones after a long separation. Being separated from family and friends has been one of the toughest challenges of this pandemic, so this slight lifting of restrictions will be a welcome relief for many.
However, your health must come first – we are still in a pandemic and the social distancing still applies. It is crucial that you continue to follow the guidance and protect yourself and others, by maintaining a 2m distance from those outside your household at all times and washing your hands often. If you are planning a trip to one of our beautiful parks or green spaces this weekend, please be considerate – keep your distance from others and dispose of your litter responsibly.
Many families will also be busy preparing for some children to return to school on Monday for the first time in many weeks. We continue to work closely with all our schools on their plans for this, to support them in their individual decisions and help them to ensure that this is managed as safely as possible. Our absolute priority is as always, the safety and wellbeing of our children and young people – those who are returning to school and those who will remain at home for now – and of those who teach them, and have worked hard to keep our schools open through the crisis for vulnerable children and key worker families. Whether our young people are learning in the classroom or learning remotely, we and our schools will continue to support them as much as we can.
If you are heading back to school, please think about your journey. We can all help to keep our community safe by minimising crowding on public transport and using an alternative wherever possible. And if we want to keep our air clean, it’s important that we choose walking and cycling rather than using our cars. The School Streets schemes that we put in place before Covid-19 have been a huge success, encouraging many families to walk and cycle to school, and I hope many more will now opt for these greener methods of travel. Across the borough, we are putting schemes in place that make it easier for everyone to walk and cycle while maintaining social distancing with our Streetspaces – find out more.
As outdoor markets reopen and others such as Surrey Street, which has remained open for food throughout the crisis, expand to include more stalls from Monday, we will have measures in place to support social distancing for shoppers. We continue to plan for the expected reopening of more shops and businesses in our town and district centres from 15 June. As part of this we are looking at how we can support you to stay safe and maintain social distance from others in our streets and public spaces, so that we can begin to revive our economy while minimising any risk to public health.
And while we take these cautious steps forward we are also looking to the long term, working with our partners in the public, private and voluntary sector to plan for Croydon’s future. With Network Rail launching their consultation on Monday about plans to expand East Croydon Station and upgrade the Brighton Mainline – find out more at www.networkrail.co.uk/croydon – there is much to feel positive about. This demonstrates huge confidence in Croydon as an important economic centre for London and the South East – and as our borough grows and develops, we will be keen to ensure that our local communities are the first to benefit.
Finally, while there has been some easing of restrictions, I am acutely aware that for our most vulnerable residents it may feel like little has changed, particularly those who are still shielding. They remain an absolute priority for us, and we continue to work with our partners in the voluntary sector to support them, combat isolation and promote their wellbeing. We must all do our part to protect them and to beat this pandemic together, by continuing to follow the guidelines. Croydon has demonstrated its strength, resilience and unity throughout Covid-19 and we must not only keep going, but ensure that no-one is left behind.
So please – enjoy the sunshine but do stay safe.
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council