SWINDON is open for business – that was the clear message from traders and the council as the new tier system comes into force this morning.

The national lockdown ended at midnight, with Swindon under Tier 2 regulations at least until the measures are reviewed in a fortnight.

All non-essential shops as well as personal care businesses such as hairdressers and nail salons can breathe a sigh of relief after being forced to close for the past month.

Inna Gawron, who owns the Aqua G salon in the Brunel Shopping Centre, said her business is fully booked for the next two weeks.

She said: “We’re reopening and we’re fully booked, obviously with time between each client and we’re spacing everyone out to minimise the amount of people in the salon.

“At the moment it’s going to be a busy December.

“Normally November is one of the busiest times of the year, we’d be busy from the start of November until Christmas so now that’ll all be condensed into the next three weeks.”

But Inna is concerned January could bring a fresh lockdown.

She added: “At the moment we’ll be open in all the tiers but we’re worried about the middle of January.

“There could be another lockdown and we could have to face this all over again.”

The council’s cabinet member for the town centre Dale Heenan says there is a reason to be positive about Swindon’s shopping scene.

He said: “The town centre and Old Town are both open for business as we prepare for the end of another Covid lockdown.

“The Arcadia and Debenhams collapse this week is as big as Woolworths 12 years ago, but the positive local picture is different.

“In fact, 18 new businesses have opened in our town centre since June.

“Christmas is a crucial time for shops, so please use our local shops so that they are still here next month, and next year.”

To encourage people to shop local parking charges in the town centre have been cut and many retailers plan to extend opening hours.

Swindon Borough Council will be introducing a fixed £1 rate from 4pm onwards at its car parks from today as several shops stay open for longer.

The new car parking rate will be available at Brunel North, Brunel West and Fleming Way multi-storey car parks until January 2.

It is hoped that the move will encourage shoppers to visit the town centre throughout the day and evening to aid social distancing and help alleviate long queues.

Shops including Marks and Spencer, Primark and Wilko will be open from 8am to 8pm. Full details of opening hours for all shops can be found on their respective websites or social media channels.

Coun Robert Jandy is the cabinet member for organisational excellence.

He said: “We know that many residents will be keen to get out and do some Christmas shopping, or simply visit some of the shops they’ve missed during these lockdown restrictions but we need to make sure this is done safely.

“We’re working closely with our partners to make sure all the right measures are in place, but it’s up to all of us to continue following the guidance and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Offering more flexible parking rates, in addition to the free parking already in place on Sundays, is just one of the ways we are supporting local businesses through these turbulent times and we hope it will encourage and enable people to visit the town centre safely.”

Angie Blackford, inSwindon BID business and marketing manager, said: “This is great news for our town centre.

“We have been working closely with Swindon Borough Council over the past few months to consider options for parking concessions in a bid to support the town centre economy after what has been a very challenging few months for the businesses.

“We must remember that local restrictions are still in place. To provide a safer environment, many of the town’s businesses will be trading with extended hours throughout December and the new parking concession will be a welcomed addition to this.

“Along with the free parking on Sunday currently in place, this is a very positive step and will certainly boost footfall for Swindon’s town centre.

“This is a great opportunity for people to #LoveLocal and support the wide range of independent and national businesses on offer.”

Tasked with encouraging businesses in the town centre, inSwindon has warned there is no need to rush when it comes to Christmas shopping.

BID manager Anita Bellinger has urged shoppers to remain patient when returning to the town centre.

She said: “The team have been incredibly busy helping all the town centre businesses with their preparations, in order to keep our town centre supporters safe and maximise their opportunities for productive Christmas shopping.

“Many of our retail businesses have agreed to extend their festive opening hours during December, some are even open 8am until 8pm.

“We look forward to seeing you in the town centre at your leisure, at a time to suit yourselves, there’s no need to rush.

“Remember to be patient and considerate if it is a little busy, everyone wants to stay happy, fit and healthy.”