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UK council rolls out public wi-fi to aid Covid recovery plan

Durham County Council is working with North to help support local businesses by capturing smart footfall data to shape planning around visitor requirements and safe physical distancing.

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Durham County Council will use real-time data to help regenerate towns and high streets
Durham County Council will use real-time data to help regenerate towns and high streets

Durham County Council in the north of England is rolling out a £1.3m public wi-fi programme to assist the county’s Covid-19 recovery plan as well as provide residents and businesses with free town centre connectivity.


The council is working with Internet of Things (IoT) service and solutions provider North to help support local businesses by capturing smart footfall data to shape planning around visitor requirements and safe physical distancing.

 

Understanding trends


The installation will allow the council to understand visitor trends including new and repeat visitors, the length of time spent in specific areas and the routes taken throughout day and night-time for economy reporting and monitoring the effect of high street changes regarding planning and regeneration schemes.


Using the real-time data, the council is also working on new ways to regenerate the high streets which have been hard hit throughout the pandemic.


North’s wi-fi roll-out will see the company work closely with the council to carefully plan and deploy networks in the county’s main centres, including historic areas. Wi-fi and footfall data will allow the council’s tourism team to promote local destinations and events, such as the annual food festival, through targeted promotions.


“We are committed to our plan to further regenerate and invest in the county’s towns and villages to ensure communities can benefit from thriving and sustainable high streets and centres,” said councillor Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration.

“Wi-fi and the real-time data it captures has an increasingly important role in regenerating the high street”

He added: “In this increasingly digital age people are finding more ways to connect with each other. This project will enhance the experience for residents and visitors, attracting more people into our towns, increasing footfall and levels of spend, and boosting our visitor economy particularly as we look ahead to the county’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”


Phase one of the project was completed in March, last year, with Bishop Auckland and Stanley town centres both benefiting from the new wireless infrastructure and North set to deliver the technology to Seaham, Chester-le-Street, Barnard Castle and Durham city centre early this year.


Data captured from Bishop Auckland and Stanley town centre has already been used to support town centre bids. These include a successful £19.9m bid to the Future High Streets Fund for Bishop Auckland, in addition to demonstrating data around potential visitor numbers and interest to cinema operators.


David Ruthven, sales director at North, said: “Wi-fi and the real-time data it captures has an increasingly important role in regenerating the high street, and with added pressures as a result of the pandemic, it’s important that the council can provide services that not only enhance local areas but contribute to making them safer for residents and visitors.”


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