Retailers fear road closure could ‘destroy street’

By Jessica Frank-Keyes, Local Democracy Reporter

Gail Watling and her husband Ian run Reds Convenience Store. Photo: Gail Watling

Retailers on a Norwich city street set to be temporarily pedestrianised have hit out over the measures which they say are a “stab in the back” and a “noose around our necks”.

Plans to temporarily ban traffic, and install tables and chairs on St Benedict’s Street were slammed by shop owners, who say they will “destroy” the street.

The city and county council are hoping to create space for social distancing and boost foot trade.

But owners fear they will be unable to receive deliveries and attract fewer customers.

They also hit out at consultation which saw leaflets dropped at premises closed during lockdown.

Gail Watling, owner of Reds Convenience Store, said she would be unable to receive any deliveries if the plans went ahead.

“It is going to absolutely destroy the street if this goes ahead,” she said. “It’s like a stab in the back.”

She added: “They haven’t thought it through – it’s not viable.

“We do get a lot of walking and cycling but if the shops go, there’s nothing to walk or cycle to.”

And other traders highlighted issues with drugs and drinking in the area, and said the plans were initially consulted for a period of just 90 days, but have now been extended to last 13 months.

Mark Daniels, owner of Cash Converters, said: “The last lifeline we’ve got is our customers and that’s about to be cut off as well.”

He added: “If this goes ahead I will either be moving or making 13 people redundant.

“We don’t need restrictions, we don’t need a noose around our necks. We need help.”

While Mark Hedges, from Cooks Band Instruments, said: “It seems really badly thought through.

“It’s just going to damage the retail businesses on the street.

“It’s not the Amalfi Coast. What are people going to do if it rains?”

A county council spokeswoman said there was “overwhelming public support” for the temporary changes.

She said: “The consultation was carried out through a range of methods and in our careful consideration of the responses received we need to balance the needs of all businesses, residents and the wider public.

“These are emergency measures that need to be implemented quickly in response to government guidance on active travel and social distancing.

“The temporary traffic management will be installed tomorrow but this will be closely monitored and we will adjust measures as necessary, as we have done in market towns across Norfolk over the last few weeks.

“Our officers are liaising closely with local businesses to address any issues as they arise.

“The temporary highway measures will stand for 90 days initially, terms of licensing arrangements will be determined by the city council. Any issues around anti-social behaviour will be closely monitored and addressed by the police and city council as appropriate.”