The pandemic has presented a "significant challenge" to businesses across the country.

It has forced councils to think outside the box and look at what other authorities already have in place, which could work as a direct response to Covid-19 in their region.

In Southwest London, one scheme we noticed to work particularly well was pedestrianisation.

The hospitality sector has been largely hit by the pandemic - with many businesses facing the uncertainty as to whether they would ever be able to open again after a year of hardship.

It became clear early on in the pandemic that a loan or grant, which not all small businesses can always access, wouldn't go far enough.

Your Local Guardian: York Road in Wandsworth ( Credit: Wandsworth Council)York Road in Wandsworth ( Credit: Wandsworth Council)

The London Borough of Wandsworth have waived fees for tables and chairs licences and temporarily pedestrianised four of their high streets to help "draw back customers".

Through traffic has been removed in Northcote Road, Old York Road, Battersea High Street and Bedford Hill.

The schemes have allowed businesses such as restaurants, bars and cafes to reopen with more outside space to "sit and socially distance".

"We know that footfall has increased by thirty per cent as visitors flock to shop, eat and just enjoy the relaxed, friendly atmosphere," commented Councillor Rhodri Morgan, Wandsworth Council’s cabinet member for Economic Development.

"And it’s not just the shops and restaurants that benefit – so do the local residents that work there and the companies that supply them.”

Your Local Guardian: Councillor Rhodri and MeldaCouncillor Rhodri and Melda

Melda from Cafe Tamra, has served residents on Northcote Road for eleven years, she said: "Not having many tables inside and with social distancing, it would have killed us.

"So this (weekend pedestrianisation) really gave us a lifeline and we're so happy with it."

JJ Wintle, of the Alma Pub, said the scheme has made York Road "quite a cool place to be" - with the scheme now implemented every day of the week.

The schemes in Wandsworth are currently in the process of consultation to see whether they should be made permanent.

Battersea High Street is also pedestrianised all week, while Bedford Hill only operates on certain weekends.

Nearby, in the London Borough of Richmond, the council referred to Wandsworth's 30% increase in footfall - they said it has inspired them to look at extending similar schemes in the borough.

Your Local Guardian: Church Street Church Street

Currently, Richmond Council has made their pedestrianisation of Church Street in Twickenham permanent following a successful consultation.

Over 1,547 people had their say in the consultation which took place between October 19, 2020, until November 22, 2020.

95% of respondents said the temporary measures had worked well - with many stating that the scheme has helped enhance the atmosphere of the street.

Richmond Council has since highlighted that the pedestrianisation has attracted new businesses, with Gail’s Bakery becoming a newcomer due to the appeal of a "car free zone".

Those who disagreed, raised their concerns over the lack of parking spaces for customers, difficulty of access for blue badge holders as well as anti-social behaviour due to excess drinking.

Depending on location as well as a number of other factors, full-pedestrianisation may not work out well for everyone.

But there are other ways to implement the structure.

Your Local Guardian: Wimbledon Village Wimbledon Village

Merton Council part-time pedestrianised part of Wimbledon Village High Street to help expand Wimbledon Village Farmers Market - which is a popular addition to the community.

"We want to do as much as possible to help our local businesses get back on their feet following the lockdowns," said Merton Council.

The council has largely focused on pavement licenses and to date, have approved 41 new licences for tables and chairs on the footway.

Merton has also supported a further 12 businesses across the borough with government grants to provide al-fresco dining facilities, and developed two parklets to support outside dining.

Parklets are temporary wooden structures and planters that occupy parking bays and provide additional space for outside dining.

"They (parklets) also contribute to improved air quality, vibrancy and sense of place as well as reducing vehicle dominance in the street scene," said Merton Council.

"We are also working with the Merton Climate Action Group to support the development of community led parklets over the coming year."

Meanwhile other council authorities such as Croydon Council and Sutton Council already had their high streets pedestrianised long before the pandemic.

We asked Sutton Council how they have further added to this scheme during the coronavirus crisis.

Your Local Guardian: Sutton High Street Sutton High Street

“The council has reduced or extended licence fees to cover the periods when shops had to remain closed," said a spokesperson.

"We have promoted licences for outdoor eating and drinking, and 20 venues now offer customers this option in Sutton.

“As a result, more and more people are visiting the town centre with footfall increasing each month since January 2021.

"The council is looking forward to building on this work with its exciting plans to invest in and improve Sutton High Street.”

Sutton Council has also introduced "Stay Safe Champions" to help reassure those visiting the high street during Covid-19.

Schemes such as covid marshals or champions could be looked at by those new to implementing the schemes - to reduce concerns over crowds gathering in pedestrianised zones, as well as anti-social behaviour.

We also spoke to business districts in the London borough of Merton and Wandsworth to see how the schemes has affected their community during unprecedented times.

Helen Clark Bell, Chief Executive of Love Wimbledon BID, said: "Businesses have had a tough year having to respond to so many regulation changes and lockdown restrictions, so we are delighted to see small and larger venues making the most of a newfound café culture.

"I am especially delighted that Centre Court Shopping have just launched the latest pop up in town, bringing some outdoor seating and activity to Queen’s Road, with live sports and street food."

Your Local Guardian: Northcote Road (Credit: Wandsworth Council)Northcote Road (Credit: Wandsworth Council)

Jonathan Dyson, chairman of the Northcote Road Business Network said: "The weekend closure of Northcote Road has been a lifeline for the hospitality sector.

"There are some 36 different cafés, bars and restaurants along the length of the road, collectively employing more staff than the rest of the businesses put together.

"During lockdowns number one and two, whilst a small handful managed to carry on some takeaway trade, the majority were forced to close and there was a very real possibility that a number would never re-open."

He added: "The importance of the road closure to these businesses cannot be overstated – instead of a ghost town of a street with boarded up shops and precious little footfall, we have a bustling hive of activity every weekend, and of course this also spills out into weekday trade as well.

Your Local Guardian: Northcote Road Northcote Road

"Retailers also benefit, as visitors now perceive Northcote Road as a destination, not just to eat and drink, but also to slowly stroll along the street and take in all that it has to offer.

"The fact that the street now has fewer empty retail units than at any time in recent history is a testament to the success of the scheme.”

As with any scheme, there will be opposition and concerns, but what these four boroughs have demonstrated is that a scheme can be implemented on a wide scale whether it's completely cutting off a high street to through traffic, or wavering fees for pavement licenses.

Have you noticed something that has worked particularly well ( or not so well) in your area? Or own a business that has adapted to the pandemic in a unique way? Contact us at