CHESTER city centre businesses are braced for the busiest weekend of the year as people look to complete their Christmas shopping.

As a result Cheshire West and Chester Council is closing Northgate Street to all vehicles to create more space for social distancing and make this weekend’s visit an "even better experience".

The road will be shut from the barrier at Town Hall Square on Saturday and Sunday (December 19 and 20) between 10.30am and 4.30pm.

Councillor Karen Shore, deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, highways and strategic transport, explained: “One of the actions we can take to provide more space for pedestrians is to prevent vehicles driving through the city centre.

"The city centre is mostly traffic free after 10.30am but some vehicles are still permitted like blue badge holders and residents staying in city centre hotels.

"I’m sorry this will inconvenience some people however the decision has been made for the safety of the increased number of pedestrians.

“These measures are being taken to make it easier for shoppers to observe social distancing, please remember to wash hands regularly, we have washing facilities available in the city centre and cover faces when indoors or on the City Rows.”

In Chester there has been a team of Capable Guardians supporting businesses and shoppers since the summer.

In addition to offering help and guidance they are also monitoring how busy the city centre has been.

Footfall monitors in Chester have recorded visitor numbers returning to 80 per cent compared to the same time last year, with over 59,000 people recorded last Saturday (December 12).

Councillor Shore added: “To avoid the queues, mornings are the quietest times with a peak at lunch time. Our Capable Guardians have also reported a steady rise in the numbers of people later in the afternoon.

"By allowing a little extra time and planning your trip everyone can stay safe and get all of the Christmas presents they need.”

The council says the Chester Park & Ride service is £1 per person and offers an "easy solution" for drivers and saves time and money looking for a parking place.