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‘They have put us back in lockdown’ - town traders and shoppers protest against road closures

PUBLISHED: 15:14 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:55 06 July 2020

Bob White, owner of Showcase Gallery, leads protests against North Walsham road closures. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Bob White, owner of Showcase Gallery, leads protests against North Walsham road closures. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

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Traders and shoppers took to the streets to protest against town centre road closures.

Bob White, owner of Showcase Gallery, leads protests against North Walsham road closures. Picture: Casey Cooper-FiskeBob White, owner of Showcase Gallery, leads protests against North Walsham road closures. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

North Walsham shop owners closed their businesses for around 10 minutes at 9am on Monday to join their customers at ‘road closed’ barriers near the town clock to campaign against the Market Place’s closure to traffic for an unspecified amount of time.

The protest of between 20 to 30 people was organised by Showcase Gallery owner Bob White and came after the town had already been hit by a six-month road closure due to gas works.

Mr White said: “The aim of this protest was to show solidarity between customers and shopkeepers against these plans. The feeling in the town is terrible, everyone is up in arms about it.

“I was really pleased with the turnout today, because we hadn’t advertised it, apart from by word of mouth and I’m sure that if we organised another one we would get more people because now more people know about it.

Bob White, owner of Showcase Gallery, leads protests against North Walsham road closures. Picture: Casey Cooper-FiskeBob White, owner of Showcase Gallery, leads protests against North Walsham road closures. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

“Even in the first few hours of the road closure, the town is quiet as hell, instantly. A lady I was speaking to from the council told me ‘you’ve got to try it’. I said the town is pedestrianised one Sunday every month for the Sunday market and due to that trade for the normal shops has been decimated.

“We are all experienced business people and if we thought this was worth a look, we’d have a good look but we know it’s not going to work.

“The council have put us back in lockdown.”

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Mr White asked the council if shops would be compensated for the closure, but he said their answer was “bluntly no”.

North Walsham resident Ian Clarke said the changes would negatively impact he and his son who has Down’s syndrome, as they could no longer park directly outside the chemist to pick up medication.

Mr Clarke said that while there were a small number of free disabled parking spaces on Bank Loke he could not leave his son for very long and it was best if his son could see him from the car.

He said: “COVID-19 has been hijacked in order to push through pedestrianisation. It’s all smoke and mirrors.”

A North Norfolk District Council spokesman said: “As announced last week, our officers visited North Walsham today to implement town centre social distancing measures to help protect shoppers and store staff as businesses open up after the COVID lockdown.

“We are aware that some traders in the Market Place have concerns about the measures being put in place, however we want to create a positive environment in which businesses can trade whilst giving local people and visitors the reassurance that they can shop as safely as possible.

“Local authorities up and down the country are implementing social distancing measures to support the re-opening of businesses within their town centres.

“The district council recognises the difficult but necessary decisions which need to be made in North Walsham where there are narrow pavements and issues with queuing and social distancing given the small size of many business premises in the town centre.

“The council believes the measures to remove vehicles and parking from the Market Place are part of a considered, collaborative approach to welcome shoppers and visitors safely back to our North Walsham town centre.”

They added: “As well as these changes the council has placed decals (floor markers) on the pavements to provide advice on pedestrian flows and queuing, installed hand sanitising stations, some new seating and planters to create an attractive town centre environment. These are temporary measures and will be kept under review to see if they are still needed. In doing so, the council will continue to work closely with local businesses and other interested parties in the town.”


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