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Norfolk Business Awards 2019

Westlegate businesses on 'crippling' closure after cladding drama

PUBLISHED: 16:29 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 18 March 2019

Shaun Rignall says the Westlegate closure in Norwich has been

Shaun Rignall says the Westlegate closure in Norwich has been "crippling" for small businesses. Picture: Archant

Archant

Business owners have described the "crippling" impact the closure of part of Norwich's Westlegate has had on their shops.

Westlegate Tower in Norwich has been damaged by strong winds. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodWestlegate Tower in Norwich has been damaged by strong winds. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

The top part of the street is closed after a large piece of cladding was dislodged from Westlegate Tower in 60mph winds.

And although only three businesses – Warings Lifestore, Paula Gundry and Evans Cycles – have been forced to close, other businesses on the street say footfall has dropped by as much as 50pc.

MORE: Westlegate businesses could remain closed until Thursday after cladding damage

A piece of cladding has been torn from Westlegate Tower in high winds. Picture: Dominic GilbertA piece of cladding has been torn from Westlegate Tower in high winds. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

Watsons, which manages Westlegate Tower, said: “The road remains closed as a precautionary measure in considering the health and safety of the public.

“The road remains closed as a precautionary measure in considering the health and safety of the public. This has been a consistent message.”

Shaun Rignall is the general manager of cafe Mindoro, which is open but lies behind the road closure signs at the opening of Westlegate.

He said: “Saturday was one of the worst we’ve had. It would have been a better idea to shut because we still had to pay our staff but we were pretty much empty.

“I think communication could have been better, we’re not being told much by the people in charge.”

MORE: Pedestrians ignore safety barriers under city centre tower

He added: “On this side of the road we’re all small, independent businesses and footfall traffic is essential to us. Places like Tesco across the road are giants who can afford to have slightly lower footfall, we’re a family run business and it’s crippling.”

Mr Rignall said he was doing the best he could to promote the store as open on social media, but said: “When you walk past the street and see the huge red signs, people just keep walking.”

However, for businesses which aren’t solely reliant on footfall the emergency closure has reinforced how important it is to be diverse.

“Because we have the design nature of our business we can carry on working as usual,” said Paula Gundry, owner of the Westlegate interiors and design store.

“We’re very lucky in that sense, but it goes to show how important having a contingency plan for times like this is,” she continued.

MORE: Retailer in Norwich purchases sportswear competitor

“This isn’t the first time we’ve had something like this. I’ve been on Westlegate for three years and when they pedestrianised the road it took months out, but you have to prepare for what you think is never going to happen.”

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