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Seven things we noticed on our first walk out in Preston city centre

Written by on June 20, 2020

It was to be expected that when Preston city centre was open once again there would be some changes in place.

Social distancing measures are still in place, employers have a responsibility to keep their staff safe and, obviously, people want to look after themselves too.

Preston BID, who are in the centre giving out masks, are just one of the examples of how Preston is adapting to keep people safe and relaxed while still making sure people can come and spend some money.

We had our first wander around Preston city centre since March today – here’s what we noticed.

St George’s is different

In many areas of the city centre, life has returned to as close to normal as is feasible. This is not the case in St George’s Shopping Centre.

Rather sensibly, they have put a one-way system in place, which means you cannot actually enter from Friargate. That is now an exit and the entrance is on the high street.

A different feel to St George’s Shopping Centre

There is also a one-way system through the interior, with a clockwise only direction in the circular centre.

Shops such as Game are now purchase-only, which means no browsing through pre-owned options and spending a few quid on a whim.

Not everywhere is open yet

A number of clothes shops in the city centre are not yet open. Ann Summers was an obvious example of this, with chipboard still covering the entrance.

Other stores such as Cotswolds and Moss are yet to open, too.

Hand-sanitiser and perspex

Walking into most stores, Waterstones being the example we experienced, you’ll see hand-sanitiser stations.

Smaller places, such as the cabins near to the outdoor market, will have normal bottles of hand-sanitiser rather than a station but the option is still there.

A number of stores also have clear plastic protecting the staff, while some in Waterstones were protecting themselves with full plastic PPE masks that you may have seen used in hospitals.

Hand sanitiser outside Evoque

In a similar vein, there are a number of hand-sanitiser spots in the city centre that aren’t in stores that you can use.

Publicly accessible hand sanitising stations have been available 24/7 at the former BHS store on Fishergate and outside Evoque nightclub on Church Street.

Work on the Shankly is underway

Company Signature Living took on the former Post Office overlooking the Flag Market in Preston city centre in 2018 with grand hopes of turning it into the city’s most luxurious place to stay.

But when the scheduled opening in the autumn of 2019 was missed and work ground to a halt, questions were asked as to what is happening with the site as times goes by.

Now Signature Living has said the doors could finally swing open at some point in 2020 – but no date has been revealed as of yet.

Work is clearly underway to get it ready, which is a start.

It’s quiet

As soon as the beaches were open for a visit, or McDonald’s, the queues were at a ridiculous scale. People, it seems, are less eager to visit the city centre.

We used the Syke Street car park which was, at most, one fifth full at lunchtime on a Saturday. The rest of the centre was similarly quiet, although it was far from a ghost town. There were plenty of people about but the majority of people are still opting to stay away.

One exception here is Livesey’s, in the market, which had a healthy queue of people for meat observing social distancing in a sensible manner.

The queue at Home Bargains

Another is Home Bargains, where people are queueing down the road to get into a store that has quite effective measures in place to keep people away from each other.

Face masks

Preston BID were set up at the flag market giving out face masks to people.

Mark Whittle, manager at Preston BID, told LancsLive: “One of the things that we’re rightly hearing from customers across the country is that they want to see safety and protection measures in place in town and city centres.

“The BID wants to see the city centre re-open effectively, and safely, so anybody visiting can pop and see us to grab a free face covering and to sanitise their hands before making their way to the stores.”

Hatches are key

A lot of the best places to grab a coffee in Preston (Cherry Pie, Rise) are not letting people into stores to order.

At some places, this means waiting at the door while somebody serves you, but for others a hatch has been set up which means you can get your coffee to go.

While a long way removed from sitting down to take the weight off your feet for a bit, it’s still nice to be able to get a very good cup of coffee once again.