St Albans prepares to reopen after lockdown - but at what price?
- Credit: Archant
Road closures, enforced social distancing and open air trading are just some of the schemes being introduced as the district prepares for business post-lockdown - but some retailers claim they weren’t given enough warning of the measures.
High Street, Market Place and George Street in St Albans city centre were all closed to traffic from this week, while in Hatfield Road between Sutton Road and Clarence Road, and in Harpenden’s Bowers Parade parking provision outside shops has been replaced with pedestrian throughfares to promote social distancing.
The measures were introduced by Herts county council, but the authority has come under fire for not properly publicising the restrictions in advance of the closures.
Traders in Hatfield Road rely on customers driving to purchase supplies of Halal and Asian goods not available elsewhere locally.
Bessam Barka, owner of Al Barak Mini Market, said in The Adda Club community newsletter: “I was not aware of the road closures, and feel let down by the [county] council. I don’t think they thought about the impact this will have on my business. It will be difficult, but we will have to wait and see how badly it will affect us.”
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Tahir Azim of Medina General Stores added: “We have seen an effect on our business already, footfall has been extremely low today and now doubt it will impact us in the weeks to come. We had no forewarning from the [county] council about the plans. We only found out this morning when workmen put out the bollards. We don’t know how long this will be in place for.”
A county council spokesperson said: “We have been working at pace to ensure that we were ahead of the game and could get the necessary traffic management supplies in time to enable appropriate measures to be rolled out. We wanted to get measures out quickly so people get used to them as traffic levels increase and people return to our high streets. Due to this proactive approach it has not always been possible to undertake our usual level of advance notification but we have put signs up on site advising people of these changes.”
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St Albans BID and the district council have also teamed up to launch the Community Hubs initiative, granting licences to allow small businesses, artisans and market traders to trade at closed car parks and pub and hotel gardens.