DESPITE the year starting off in a third national lockdown, champions of Wilmslow businesses remain 'cautiously hopeful' for better times for the remainder of 2021.

Speaking to the Guardian about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the damage it is has caused to many, Richard Price, who is heavily involved in Wilmslow Business Group, said he wanted it to play a stronger role this year.

He said: "We're trying to get it all back on track.

"Anything we can do to help businesses and let them know that we're still here.

"It's important that they know they can still come and speak to us.

"I think we all went into this year with heaps of optimism because of the vaccine.

"We thought it would be a much better year and everyone would be out and about, but obviously we've started the year off with another lockdown.

"Although that's naturally given people plenty of concern, there is still hope."

Knutsford Guardian: Wilmslow town centre

Although major events such as Glastonbury have already announced this summer's festival is cancelled, there remains hope the Cheshire Show will still take place and Richard is hopeful the Business Group also be able to put on some kind of local event in the town over the summer.

"People are still trying to do stuff," he said.

"The same goes for businesses too, with many having the attitude of 'if they can, they will'.

"But at the same time there is some caution.

"For every cause for optimism and celebration it seems there is always something to temper it and extinguish that flame a little bit.

"I'm sure we'd all like to have a massive big street party.

"We spoke with Esther McVey's office last year about holding some kind of event in Wilmslow last July, but obviously nobody knew at the time what was about to happen.

"If it feels possible and if government policy and guidance allows it then I'm sure we will put something on in the summer.

"But the reality is, we can sit here at the beginning of February and make the best plans in the world only to have to cancel them further down the line.

"We can't wait to do something big in the summer, but at the same time there's a risk in promising something and not being able to deliver it."

With the hospitality sector barring much of the brunt in terms of lockdowns, Richard said business owners in the town might at least take some comfort that the third came at a time most consider to be their leanest period.

"Don't get me wrong, nobody is enjoying this at the moment, but I think secretly some of those hospitality businesses might be secretly pleased that at least lockdown has come during January and February," he said.

"Usually, the hospitality businesses really have to do their best to get people in at this time of year with various dining offers and things like that.

"But of course, at the same time, those same businesses were hit hardest during November and December, which would normally be their peak trade.

"The government has obviously put support in place and with the grants from the council and their staff being furloughed, I am hopeful that by and large, they will all be able to re-open.

"It always seems that hospitality businesses are the last ones allowed to open and the first that have to close, despite them all putting adequate safety measures in place.

"There were also the very unpopular restrictions like the introduction of the 10pm curfew, which seemed a little bit silly."

Like most people during lockdown, Richard has spent more time than he hoped at home, but has at least been able to use the time to think of potential ideas, government guidelines permitting.

"We've certainly got the optimism and enthusiasm," he added.

"For many of us it's been a case of sitting at home twiddling our thumbs and thinking about what we can do.

"If it looks like it's possible then we are certainly keen to do stuff, it's just being able to promise anything with that uncertainty behind it at the moment."

The Business Group has other plans for the future, one of which being a hope to launch a Wilmslow (Business Improvement District) BID with both the Town Council and community action group Groundwork involved in exploring the feasibility of such.

He said: "We've been involved in many initiatives and events in the past, with the idea being to support and champion the town centre.

"It's a two fold thing really, to support footfall and bring people into the town for the prosperity of businesses, but also for residents to make sure they have a vibrant town centre to eat, socialise and going shopping in.

"We have the attitude of, if you don't use it, you'll lose it."