Dorchester town council has said it will do what it can to help with the town’s economic recovery once the pandemic is over.

Policy committee chairman Cllr Susie Hosford says the council is offering to lead discussions and will open talks this week with the town’s chamber of commerce and the business improvement district.

Further talks will follow with other groups, she told an online meeting of the town council on Monday evening: “Any recovery plan needs to recognise that we cannot simply reinstate what existed before, as we were already recognising that significant changes to the way we live need to be planned for.”

Town centre resident Julian Hancock, who asked the question about future planning, told the meeting: “The current crisis will lead to many changes in the town, particularly the town centre. A significant number of retail businesses have already closed, or are likely to in the near future. They probably won’t be replaced. Changes that might otherwise have taken years or decades will be upon us in weeks or months.”

Cllr Hosford said that in less than two months the town council had completely re-focused its work to prioritise assisting community groups delivering front line support to the vulnerable members of the community.

She said that the council had also prepared its cemeteries to cope with the worst, should it have happened; and adapted all of its services to fit in with the Government’s guidance; all while its staff and councillors were managing their own individual circumstances and learning new ways of working.

“We are immensely grateful to everyone in the town for the way they have dealt with the changes, whether they are front line worker, community volunteer or a resident enduring lockdown.”

She said the council had already agreed extra funding for community work and had now started the dialogue about recovery with business leaders and representatives from the heritage, tourism and community sectors to find out what they need and how the town council might help.

“We are conscious of the negative impacts of the lockdown; we are also aware that some of the ways that residents and workers are using to adapt to changed circumstances might have positive or negative consequences in the longer term,” she said.