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‘It will put shops out of business’ - town traders fury over road closures

PUBLISHED: 10:17 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:17 02 July 2020

North Walsham shops carry on under lockdown. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

North Walsham shops carry on under lockdown. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

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Shop owners have reacted with fury after it was announced town centre roads would close for an unspecified amount of time from next Monday.

Trade has been affected in North Walsham due to the gas mains work. Pictures: David BaleTrade has been affected in North Walsham due to the gas mains work. Pictures: David Bale

Market Place in North Walsham will close again to traffic, just three months after its roads reopened following gas works from January to April.

North Norfolk District Council says the closure will allow shoppers to safely observe social distancing, however many traders say government guidelines were being observed without closures and that closing the roads would drive business away from the town.

Colin Page, of CD Page Tobacconist, described the move as “nonsense” and questioned why after 12 weeks of social distancing the council had suddenly decided to close the roads.

He said: “Most of us have been open for 12 weeks now, we’ve managed the queuing and social distancing ourselves when there were far greater queues than there are now. Now it’s all getting back to normality they’ve suddenly decided to send council officials in.

Trade has been affected in North Walsham due to the gas mains work. Pictures: David BaleTrade has been affected in North Walsham due to the gas mains work. Pictures: David Bale

“Queues at the bank are organised, they’ve got someone out there monitoring the situation all the while. Most people are very good and they’ve learnt the two metre rule and the one-in, one-out for smaller shops which is what we operate.

“I just see it as completely unnecessary, it’s taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Mr Page said that during the previous closure for gas works many shops were simply covering costs making no profit, and said that he feared these closures would be the end for some shops.

He added: “If this goes on until September as some think it might, then no shop is going to manage nine months without turning a profit, it will put shops out of business.”

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Mr Page said he was also concerned about disabled and elderly people who need to be able to park outside shops.

Brian Eastel, who owns Waterloo Stores, said he hadn’t seen any issues with the current system, adding that he could not support the road closures.

He said: “I haven’t found any problems with people queuing up outside that would create a danger, and when you close the town off to traffic, which brings people in and they’re potential customers so in general I don’t think it’s a good idea.

“Everything has been fine with no problems, then all of a sudden they want to close it off.”

A North Norfolk District Council spokesman said: “Measures to be implemented in North Walsham have been part of a carefully considered recovery plan for the area, similar to others across Norfolk to ensure the safety of shoppers, residents and businesses. It has been a collaborative approach seeking the comments of local members, the town council, the police, highways and the environmental health team.

“It was agreed that, due to too many pinch points of people queuing to enter shops in the town’s Market Place, closing the area to vehicles was the most practical and safe option.

“We are very sympathetic that traders in North Walsham were affected by gas works carried out earlier in the year and during the works the council provided two hours free parking in two of the town’s car parks. However, sadly COVID-19 is still very present in our communities and these safety measures must be put in place to prevent the spread. The nearby Bank Loke car park will have a small number of disabled parking bays and spaces will be available that provide one hour of free parking to support the high street in lieu of the on-street spaces “lost” in the Market Place.

They added: “These measures will be reviewed on a weekly basis and if it becomes apparent that there is less need for such restrictions, they will be lifted.”


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