Shop-owner: 'Hare-brained road closures are affecting my online business'
- Credit: Archant
A security clampdown after road closure keys were allegedly copied and circulated has left couriers unable to access High Street shops, a business owner has complained.
Deryane Tadd, who runs The Dressing Room, said the strict city centre lockdown was jeopardising her ability to fulfil online orders - and that other businesses were complaining too.
“Herts County Council are putting obstacles in our way for us to be able to run our businesses effectively, all for some hare-brained scheme of closing this road,” she said. “And all with no consultation.”
The Herts Ad reported last week that a suspected security breach had been detected, with St Albans council officers believing keys to gates, in place to enforce COVID-19 road closures, had been copied and circulated.
The gates were found to have been opened without authorisation 21 times in October.
Since then, the padlocks have been replaced with combination locks and the gates are now only being opened for three hours per day to facilitate pick-ups and deliveries.
Deliveries and Collections
“The gates, which we manage on behalf of Herts County Council, are open for deliveries at set times known to our local businesses and their suppliers,” said Tony Marmo, St Albans Council’s head of commercial and development.
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“Outside of these hours, delivery drivers can park at loading bays located beside the pedestrianised areas.”
He said one loading bay was around 40 metres from The Dressing Room and the other was roughly 95 metres away.
But Mrs Tadd said the new rules were significantly affecting her online business.
“We run a substantial e-commerce business alongside our bricks and mortar business,” she said.
“At 4.30pm every day, we have collections for our e-commerce parcels, from DPD and Royal Mail. Up until last week, we had an agreement whereby the gate would be opened so they could drive down and pick up the collections.
“Now that agreement has been withdrawn because of this whole key-cloning saga.”
Mrs Tadd said that a parking bay 40 metres away was not sufficient.
“On occasion, we will fill two Royal Mail vans,” she said. “We are approaching peak trading times on the calendar – Black Friday, Christmas, January sales.
“I’m not comfortable about couriers having to drag expensive products up the High Street. Anything could happen to them.”
St Albans Council and the city’s Business Improvement District (BID) both said BID rangers were on hand to help with collections and deliveries.
BID chair Alison Berneye said: “Herts County County changed all the gates to combination locks last Friday, November 12.
“St Albans District Council continues to manage the gates, working closely with the BID for access for events and to help meet business needs.
“We anticipated these changes might impact a couple of businesses and immediately contacted them to offer the assistance of BID rangers to help with parcel collections and large pallet deliveries while they adjust to the changes.”
“No way to run a business”
But, said Mrs Tadd, “Every time the drivers have come to the store, they have said that there was nobody there to help. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know – but I can’t be running up and down the High Street looking to see if there are any rangers.
“Besides, this is not really a long-term solution, is it? I am running a serious business here. That is just not how a serious business runs – waiting for someone to happen to be there to help us with our parcels.
“Couriers need to have access to our premises. This is all so short-term.”
Mrs Tadd said she had been offered a meeting with Herts County Council later this week to discuss her situation.
Mr Marmo, from St Albans Council, said: “We believe the arrangements maintain the integrity of the pedestrianised areas while allowing businesses to carry out their operations successfully during the busy festive season.
“We are, of course, continuing to monitor activities and will consider any feedback that we receive, along with the county council.”
Ms Berneye said: “We encourage businesses to contact us should they need interim support and to provide feedback so we can inform Herts County Council and St Albans District Council of business needs as the gate management system evolves.”
Herts Council Council did not respond to a request for comment.
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