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Social distancing - A guide for towns, parishes and businesses

We have developed guidance on making public spaces safe:

  • In the short term to manage the risk of the virus spreading
  • In the longer term by building on the changes that have happened to the way we travel

As town centres re-open the key principles of our role are:

  • We will not develop or impose plans on communities. However, we will support plans that are led by communities, and which are ideally owned by Town and Parish Councils, but there is no expectation that plans must be created 
  • We will advise and put things in place in areas where we can best use our expertise. This includes traffic management and temporary closures of streets to traffic
  • We trust communities and businesses to do what is right in their area. This removes the need for businesses to seek permissions to use outside space on the highway adjacent to their premises
  • Working with public transport operators to put social distancing messages in place. The messages will be in line with national guidance. Messages will be in our pay and display car parks, as well as rail stations, bus stations and shelters
  • Our measures must consider safe access for all users
  • We have built a toolkit to support communities developing their traffic management plans. Download the Social Distancing with the Highway Toolkit.

At the heart of our approach is that we trust our residents and communities to do the right thing. To follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines. There has been clear and consistent messaging around two metre social distancing.

The Government has released guidance to support safe social distancing in local communities. You can read the Safer Public Spaces: Urban Centres and Green Spaces document. Towns and communities should use this document when developing their own plans. We will not develop or impose plans on communities. We will support plans led by communities, and which are ideally owned by Town and Parish Councils. There is no expectation that plans must be created.

We must make efficient use of our resources. This means:

  • Supporting communities and local businesses to best use their public space 
  • Planning permission is usually required for businesses to put tables, chairs and other temporary furniture outside their boundary. We will not enforce this in 2020, as long as there are no public safety implications. This is part of our recovery strategy, we trust that businesses will do this together, and consider impacts on neighbours. This allows businesses to be safe and re-open, and provide extra space for customers to social distance. This also supports business through this difficult economic period
  • Helping communities with their plans that may have an impact on our highways and traffic movement
  • Managing any regulatory approvals that may be required for you

Examples of social distancing measures may include:

  • Marking out a queuing system outside a shop (as supermarkets have done on their property)
  • Widening a pavement using temporary barriers or using signs. For example to show a particular pedestrian pinch point
  • Closing a street to make safe for pedestrians

If your query is not answered in either of those documents, please contact us on 0300 1231 118 or email