MINEHEAD and Watchet will need to play out a 'fine balancing act' in the coming weeks as shops are able to re-open from June 15.

Both towns have economies which are reliant on tourism and many independent businesses on the brink who are desperate to re-open, but both also have elderly and vulnerable populations who need to be protected from the coronavirus.

Minehead BID chairman Graham Sizer said: "We are all in new territory and talking to partners in both the district and town councils it is plain we have a balancing act to play out over the next few months.

"With such an elderly and vulnerable population in the town, their safety is paramount. We are all agreed on that.

"Meanwhile many of our shops want to reopen before livelihoods are lost completely, and as the summer season progresses this is becoming more critical to their survival.”

BID manager Andrew Hopkins said he was impressed with the ways traders had found new ways to safely serve loyal customers, from deliveries to adding online services such as click and collect, to serving takeaways through safe hatches.

Chairman of WACET John Richards said it was understandable businesses in Watchet were keen to open, but said there were concerns about the impact a sudden of influx of visitors could have.

"The option to open shops is good news for Watchet. But we must think carefully as we have an elderly population; we don't want some of the issues Weston-super-Mare has been having to happen here," Mr Richards said.

"The other issue our traders face is that the traditional shop spaces in Watchet are quite small, and the pavements are quite narrow.

"Putting in place one-way systems and safe queuing measures isn't going to be straightforward."