LIFE in north Essex this summer returned to long-awaited normal according to Google data.

Figures have shown footfall in resorts and town centres even surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

All coronavirus restrictions were lifted in England on July 19, with people allowed back in hospitality venues without needing to socially distance for the first time since March 2020.

Google uses location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people’s movement in different parts of their daily lives.

It compares footfall in five areas outside of the home – retail and recreation, supermarkets and pharmacies, parks, public transport and workplaces – to a five-week baseline period recorded before the Covid-19 crisis.

In Essex, average activity across these categories was two per cent above normal levels between July and September.

This was up significantly from summer 2020, when footfall was 11 per cent below the baseline.

Google data for July to September also showed activity in Essex’s parks and public spaces was 69 per cent above pre-pandemic measurements.

Most rules were relaxed last summer in England, with shops, outdoor hospitality and indoor venues reopened although nightclubs remained shut, large-scale events were banned and social distancing rules were still in place.

Across the UK, retail and recreation establishments – such as restaurants, cafés and shopping centres – saw a 17 percentage point increase, matched only by supermarkets and pharmacies.

Nigel Brown, communications manager for Clacton Pier, said footfall certainly picked up at the attraction once lockdown restrictions were lifted.

“It was a steady summer once we were fully operational again with both indoor and outdoor facilities open, and we are pleased families returned to the attraction,” he said.

“There was a busy time when people were first allowed back and then it levelled off for a while as was to be expected.

“It has been good to see customers back and - as usual - the best footfall coincides with the good weather.

“We are now looking to continue the upturn with our Halloween Festival and Christmas activities as we are open all year round.”

Retail analytics firm Springboard said its own data showed a significant increase in footfall on UK high streets.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said the “absence of easy international travel” increased the popularity of day trips and holidays within the UK this year, providing a boost to high street footfall.

“In coastal and historic towns the improvement was even greater, demonstrating the appeal of town centres to visitors,” she added.