Barriers helping Calderdale shoppers stay Covid safe are damaging trade say businesses

Barriers put in place to help keep shoppers safe from COVID-19 are also proving a barrier to trade, say some business owners in a Calderdale town.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 8:28 am
Updated Friday, 16th October 2020, 8:36 am

But this was not a unanimous view and some said shoppers had told them they felt safe coming to Brighouse because they were there.

Calderdale Council, which put the barriers in place to help social distancing when businesses were allowed to start opening up again following lockdown imposed earlier in the pandemic, says it is continually reviewing their use and has removed some of the barriers.

Members of the council’s Place Scrutiny Board were discussing the impact COVID-19 on businesses in the borough and a number of Brighouse business people were among those invited to speak.

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Brighouse town centre

Michelle Vease of Brighouse BID said the barriers – on Commercial Street – had impacted on trade as vehicles were unable to pull in and park outside those shops.

John Murphy, of Czerwik’s Fine Wines and Cheeses on Commercial Street, Brighouse, said early in the pandemic home deliveries had worked out well and kept their heads above water.

“Then we were hit with the barriers quite hard, they took out all Commercial Street car parking and we saw our takings really plummet, most of Commercial Street did.

“We have had our own risk assessment and they are not needed.

“The risk of Covid compared to loss of business is disproportionate,” he said.

But florist Lesley Adams disagreed and said three people has told her they shopped in Brighouse because the barriers made them feel safer.

She did add: “It has been really bad PR – people think they are digging up the pavement.”

The council’s Highways and Transportation lead, Steven Lee, said the council had removed some of the barriers and he had received responses from shoppers who said they came into Brighouse because the barriers made them feel safe.

The meeting heard flower containers were now being used in place of some of the barriers which Mr Lee said were not ideal – but at the height of the pandemic availability nationally was limited.

Another Brighouse businessman, Oliver Blackburn, agreed with Mr Murphy and said Brighouse was a town where people liked to be able to nip in to town to do some shipping quickly.

“They are a barrier to shopping and a barrier to business,” he said.

The council’s corporate lead for Transportation, Mary Farrar, said the issue had arisen because half the pavement was in private ownership and in parts the width available to the council to arrange social distancing was very narrow, 1.1 metres.

It was a balance of keeping people safe and also predicting where people might queue, she said, and the situation was monitored daily, it was a learning process.

“We are between a rock and a hard place really. I take your point about communications,” she said.

Coun George Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe), who chairs the board, suggested it might be brought back to the board to look at again.