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First day of controversial Bridgnorth High Street closure a success, claims business expert

By Rory Smith | Bridgnorth | News | Published:

The first week of a controversial scheme to close Bridgnorth High Street on Saturdays saw the "overwhelming majority" of traders have a successful day, a business expert has claimed.

Sally Themans said that while a couple of shops reported a quieter trade compared to the previous Saturday, the majority had a successful day operating with new restrictions.

Shropshire Council also said today that the scheme had received a positive response from traders and shoppers in the town.

The closure, which consists of High Street being shut from 5am every Saturday to allow for easier social distancing while the weekly market runs, is due to last up to another three weeks, Shropshire Council said. The plan initially split opinion, with Bridgnorth Chamber of Commerce claiming the reduced parking and access would have a ‘devastating effect on already struggling businesses’.

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But Mrs Themans, who runs Love Bridgnorth, a community campaign promoting retailers and tourism, was asked to undertake a study which found 93.6 per cent of the 47 traders surveyed were in favour of closing High Street between 9.30am and 3pm.

She said: “I’ve had a lot of anecdotal evidence and it does vary depending on the sort of business in question. One retailer said she had doubled her sales from the previous Saturday. One or two said they were quiet but the overwhelming majority said they had very good days both through the tills and with what customers were saying – they had stayed away before and now they’ve returned.

“When the closure was first announced it became very apparent that a lot of retailers felt, given the pandemic, this was going to be a good thing.

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“Many had said customers felt unsafe and I myself had been in the high street the week before and it was too busy. People were brushing past you and entrances to shops were very congested.

“Retailers were saying it was a good idea, which was very contrary to the chamber of commerce, which is why I was urged to set up a survey and the results are quite pressing.

“There was an overwhelming desire to have this in place even among the eight traders surveyed who are part of the chamber of commerce – which made up 30 per cent of the study.”

The latest development comes after Shropshire Council said the temporary closure would last up to four weeks in total.

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New arrangements on Saturdays in Bridgnorth High Street

Steve Brown, interim assistant director of infrastructure and communities at Shropshire Council, said: “We envisage this closure taking place on Saturdays for no more than three to four weeks while the necessary arrangements are made to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines and allow for safe shopping and trading in Bridgnorth.

“There are no plans to make this a permanent feature, however it is a necessary response to the current Covid-19 advice from Public Health England and the government.”

Bridgnorth High Street is set to be closed for another three Saturdays and the authority said it will do all it can to minimise any inconvenience and gain the support of those who have been critical of the closure.

The street was closed to vehicles for the first time on Saturday, July 25, between its junctions with Whitburn Street and Listley Street, from 5am until 4.30pm – and will be closed at the same times again tomorrow.

The closure will allow the necessary arrangements to be made for continuing to comply with social distancing while the weekly market takes place.

Following last Saturday’s first closure, Shropshire Council officers reported receiving positive feedback from shoppers on the day as well as online via social.

Steve Davenport, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Last week’s first Saturday closure went well and I want to thank all involved in ensuring things ran smoothly on the day.

"It’s great to hear positive feedback from traders and visitors. We know that this necessary closure will inconvenience some residents, shoppers and businesses, and council officers will be on site again on Saturday and will do what they can to minimise disruption – whilst ensuring that the market is laid out in a way that allows safe access to the market stalls and surrounding residential and business premises.

“If people do have any concerns or questions about the work, we ask them to contact us so that we can look to address or answer them.”

The ‘No Entry’ at the junction of High Street and Cartway is suspended during the closure.

To report any issues or for further information contact Shropshire Council on 03456789006 or email socialdistancingmeasures@shropshire.gov.uk

Rory Smith

By Rory Smith
Reporter - @rorysmith_star

Senior reporter based at the Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley, Telford.

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