Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Some of our services have temporarily stopped or changed. See our Changes to Council services page for services’ status and our Coronavirus updates section for latest information.

Reopening information for the retail economy

The Council has been working with partner organisations, including Royal Tunbridge Wells Together Business Improvement District (RTWT BID) and the parish and town councils, to support the reopening of all our high streets and town centres in the borough.

We recognise that the reopening will not happen overnight, but over a longer period as retailers will open only when they are ready to receive staff and customers back safely.

We want to support businesses and make visitors feel welcome and confident in our high streets and town centres.

Reopening our High Streets

More information can be found in our "Reopening our High Streets" document.

Timescales for reopening

From Monday 15 June the Government has announced that non-essential retail shops can open to visiting members of the public, subject to sufficient social distancing regulations being put in place.

Getting ready for reopening

Businesses must be responsible for their own staff and customers including managing queues outside stores. Please work with your neighbours to make this easier. The Council recently sent a letter to businesses that can reopen on 15 June, with links to relevant government guidance which we hope you received, please let us know if you did not.

The Government has produced guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

Please ensure that you have taken all reasonable steps to plan your safe reopening by:

  • Completing a Covid-19 risk assessment
  • Following government guidance
  • Put signage and communication around your business for your employees and customers

Risk assessment templates

Preparing a Covid-19 risk assessment is a fundamental part of preparing your business to open. Extra precautions will need to be in place to protect your business, employees, and customers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has provided guidance on managing risk and preparing a risk assessment at work. The HSE has also created an example Covid-19 risk assessment template.

Employers are also encouraged to display a blue notice visibly in their shop window, to show everyone that they have followed guidance. This notice can be downloaded for use from the GOV.UK website.

Street Ambassadors

We will have several Street Ambassadors in our high streets to give information and confidence to customers who may be out and about for the first time in several months. The Ambassadors will comprise some local security staff, KCC Community Wardens, Police Special Officers, volunteers and TWBC staff. At present we are planning for the Ambassadors to be around for the last two weeks in June, but this may be extended as required.

Ambassadors will be in the following locations: Royal Tunbridge Wells, Paddock Wood, Cranbrook, Hawkhurst, Southborough/Rusthall/St Johns as required. They will be identifiable by their yellow tabards.

Public realm - signs and markings

We will be making some changes within the public realm to assist customers with social distancing and queueing. You may see tape or other markings on the pavements to help show areas for queuing and those for pedestrian flows. Social distancing will be encouraged by suggested one-way routes on some of our narrower pavements. There will also be red and white social distancing reminder signs in the public realm.

Street maps have also been produced showing pavement taping for shop queuing and suggested pedestrian one-way flows.

Both RTWT BID and TWBC have designed and supplied businesses with signs and posters to assist with reopening. The TWBC posters can be downloaded and printed.


Please be aware of the Kent County Council licence requirements if you wish to have an A-board outside your business.

It may be necessary to remove A-boards if they are causing a hazard in relation to social distancing requirements, please keep this under review.

Tables and chairs on pavements

To assist shops and restaurants to re-open more easily and adapt to social distancing requirements, TWBC has temporarily relaxed the requirement to apply for planning permission for seating, tables and the storage of goods on pavements.

If businesses would like to use pavement space that they do not own, there is a new streamlined process:

  1. Email with a sketch plan showing the shop front, any land outside the shop owned/rented by the business, the extent of pavement that you would like to use, and the area of remaining pavement. The sketch does not need to be scale, but please include dimensions.  Please mark the subject of the email with ‘FAO Planning’.
  2. Planning officers will consider your application within two to three working days and will make direct contact with you to relay the outcomes of this.

Further information about this is included within the Reopening the High Street document (page 10).

In addition to this, an application for a KCC licence needs to be undertaken as well as this application to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. The fee for this is being waived for six weeks to support businesses in reopening.

Anyone who has applied for a licence but is awaiting a decision, can from Monday 15 June place tables and chairs outside, in line with KCC guidance. For those businesses that have already paid, KCC will be adding an extra six weeks to their licence period to ensure they do not miss out.

To apply for a licence you need to complete the application for a permit to place tables and chairs on the pavement or road.

More information from the government can be found on their Draft planning guidance to support the Business and Planning Bill webpage.


Additional measures are being implemented in our car parks to support social distancing including:

  • Removing the cash option on payment machines
  • Bay suspensions adjacent to payment machines
  • Decommissioning some machines to enable social distancing
  • Exploring the use of anti-bacterial coating on surfaces in car parks
  • Temporary signage and floor markings where required
  • Meadow Road car park will remain closed but able to be reopened with 24 hours' notice as required.

From 15 - 30 June there will be a RingGo only parking offer of £2 for 4 hours in Royal Victoria Place, Crescent Road and Great Hall car parks. The current £2 all day Sunday offer in the multi-storey car parks in Royal Tunbridge Wells will remain. Parking in the old coach park on Linden Park Road (near the Pantiles) for £4.50 all day.

Our website contains further information about car parks across the borough and registering for RingGo.

Public transport

Our local bus and train operators will be increasing their services from 15 June. Further information about services are available on their websites.

Bus operators

Train operators

Street cleaning

The Council is committed to keeping all our high streets and town centres clean and welcoming. Prior to 15 June an enhanced clean will be undertaken and regularly reviewed.

Public toilets

Toilets are open at Crescent Road car park, Calverley Grounds (opposite the railway station) and 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. South East Water has identified some key actions they strongly advise businesses to take if you have been away from your premises for more than a week. The South East Water website contains information about recovering drinking water supplies in buildings and networks after prolonged inactivity.

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