Re-opening business and venues
The council is working with a number of different partners to ensure a smooth transition to re-opening of all businesses and venues, in line with the government roadmap.
Following the move to Step 4, from 19 July 2021 most COVID-19 legal restrictions have been lifted. All remaining closed businesses and venues such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues are able to reopen. Please visit our business permitted to re-open page for further information.
Getting ready for re-opening
Businesses must be responsible for their own staff and customers including managing queues outside stores. Please work with your neighbours to make this easier.
Please ensure that you have taken all reasonable steps to plan your safe reopening by:
- completing a COVID-19 risk assessment
- following government guidance
- cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly
- identifying poorly ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow
- ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue
- putting signage and communication around your business for your employees and customers
The government is also encouraging certain settings to use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Businesses are also encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for customers wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, or, to continue collecting customer contact details to support NHS Test and Trace, however, is no longer a legal requirement. For further details, please visit the GOV.UK website.
The legal requirement to wear a face covering has been lifted. However, the government expects and recommends that people wear a face covering in crowded areas such as public transport or confined and busy indoor spaces.
There are no longer limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and other life events (including receptions and celebrations). There is no requirement for table service at live events, or restrictions on singing or dancing. There is detailed guidance on weddings and funerals to reduce risk and protect yourself and others.
A variety of different posters and signs are still available for businesses to download and print.
For businesses in Royal Tunbridge Wells, a re-opening pack is also available through the Business Improvement District – Royal Tunbridge Wells Together. If you are interested in obtaining this, please contact a member of the team via email@example.com. There is also the option to download COVID-19 posters and signage for your business premise.
We have published a number of guidance documents on a sector specific basis, to assist businesses with accessing information related to their particular industry. If you have any specific questions about re-opening your business premise, please contact a member of the Environmental Health team via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The government has also produced a number of recovery strategies including:
A number of different bus operators serve Tunbridge Wells borough; please refer to the relevant operator for further details about their current service timetables:
- Autocar (please call 01892 833830 or email email@example.com)
- Brighton & Hove
- Go Coach
If you are intending to travel by train, please also refer to the Southeastern website for services to and from Tunbridge Wells, High Brooms and Paddock Wood. Please refer to the Southern website for up to date information to and from Ashurst station.
Additional measures are being implemented in our car parks to support social distancing including:
- encouraging the use of credit/debit cards and the RingGo cashless parking app and phone service
- bay suspensions adjacent to payment machines
- suspending some machines to enable social distancing
- temporary signage where required
The parking and roads pages of our website have further information on car parks across the borough and on registering for RingGo.
Tables and chairs on pavements
To assist hospitality businesses with re-opening and to adapt to social distancing requirements, in line with government guidance, the requirements have temporarily been relaxed to place new seating, tables and chairs on pavements.
In normal times businesses can use land outside their premises which they own (usually referred to as the curtilage and sometimes indicated by studs in the pavement) without the need for planning permission. However they would need to apply for planning permission to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and pay for a licence from Kent County Council (who are responsible for roads and pavements) if they wished to use areas of land not directly under their ownership.
The licence permits the business to place furniture on highway owned land to sell or serve food or drink and/or allow it to be used by people for the consumption of food or drink supplied from, or in connection with the use of the premises.
The temporary licence period has been extended to September 2022. However, the government has recently committed in principle (in their Hospitality Strategy) to making these licences permanent (subject to parliamentary approval). The government has also committed to considering how to build on the success of the pavement licence scheme.
A notice will be need to be completed and displayed at your premise, advertising your application and this should be displayed on your premises from the day the application is submitted, for a period of 7 days.
The licence application fee is £100. You will need to upload your plans alongside your licence application.
Further information about tables and chairs licences is available on the government website.
The government has also removed the need to apply for formal planning permission for outdoor markets and marquees, meaning they can be set up for longer. The future of this scheme is being considered to further benefit businesses.
Retail opening hours
After the government announcement on extended opening hours, the Council will be following this flexible approach to allow for safer return to our high streets. This will make it easier to shop in a socially distanced way, by giving visitors greater flexibility to avoid peak times and easing transport pressures.
Retail units will have the option to open until 10pm Monday to Saturday, even if this is currently a constraint in the business premises planning permission. Businesses do not need to apply to the Local Authority if they wish to open their business within these hours. Enforcement action will not be taken during the hours between 7am and 10pm, Monday to Saturday, unless there are unreasonable actions which require investigation.
Toilets have remained open throughout the town centre at Crescent Road Car Park, in Calverley Grounds, Royal Tunbridge Wells (opposite the station) and in Royal Victoria Place shopping centre.
Deliveries and commercial waste
Please consider if you need to make (or request) changes to the timing of deliveries and commercial waste collections at your business. This may be an issue if you have customers queuing in the same area when deliveries or collections are being made.
Check your water supply
When you return to your place of work you should check your water system. Southeast Water has identified some key actions they strongly advise businesses to take if you’ve been away from your premises for more than a week.
All council services are open to visiting members of the public. From 19 July, it is advised that where possible for visitors to continue to adopt mask wearing and social distancing at these venues. This includes:
- The Gateway – open as of 12 April 2021, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
- Community Centres - open from 12 April
- Tourist Information Centre - the TIC is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 3pm (please also see the Visit Tunbridge Wells website)
- Assembly Hall Theatre - open as of 17 May 2021
Please see our changes to council services page for the latest information.
Safe Town Partnership
The Tunbridge Wells Safe Town Partnership consists of SafeTown and Pubwatch. This operates in partnership with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Kent Police, Kent Trading Standards and Kent Fire and Rescue to reduce crime and disorder, the opportunity for crime and the fear of crime.
The Partnership has members in Tunbridge Wells town, North Farm, Paddock Wood and surrounding areas, consisting of retail premises, restaurants, cafes, takeaways, pubs and clubs as well as other organisations.
The Partnership provides the following services and support:
- a radio, with full support, which enables members to be in direct contact with the council CCTV operators, Police Town Team officers and each other, allowing members to alert each other of incidents and crime, providing support for staff and the exchange of information and intelligence
- support of the Business Crime Manager who runs the SafeTown and Pubwatch schemes
- access to a members only website which gives details of incidents and images of active offenders and suspects operating across Tunbridge Wells and, where justified, Kent
- assistance in submitting incident records, which allows for warning letters and exclusion notices to be issued to individuals, banning them from member premises for a specified period
- funding daytime and night-time crime reduction initiatives
- member meetings
- various training sessions
In the meantime, if you have a query, please contact a member of the Economic Development team via firstname.lastname@example.org.