Busy first day after lockdown as shoppers fill streets in Shropshire

The easing of lockdown measures means Christmas will come with ribbons, it'll come with tags, it'll come with packages, boxes and bags.

A busy Pride Hill on the first day of the county in Tier 2
A busy Pride Hill on the first day of the county in Tier 2

Shoppers poured into the streets of Shrewsbury yesterday morning as Shropshire moved from lockdown to Tier 2.

Pride Hill was packed with people to make up for lost time on a day which appeared busier in the town than the day after the first lockdown, despite drizzly weather.

Debate has stirred on whether the new restrictions to our liberties are too tight, or whether we should have sucked up the national shut down for a while longer to bring case numbers under control.

But Salopians largely seem to have voted with their feet, visiting the town in their droves.

College friends Fin Singleton, Shannon Slaymaker-McBride and Perry Jolly

College pals Shannon Slaymaker McBride, Perry Jolly and Fin Singleton have been making the most of restrictions being lifted.

Perry said: "I expected it to be pretty busy. There's a new skate shop open on Wyle Cop so we've been there, and we went to the gym this morning.

Shannon added: "It was busier than it usually is. It seemed like everyone was desperate to get back to it."

They're glad to have a bit more freedom, but appreciated being able to see each other in their college group social bubble this time, rather than going months without like in the first lockdown.

"It's been better because we've been able to see each other, although I had to isolate after someone in my class tested positive," said Perry.

Shoppers were out in force in Shrewsbury

"I just slept during the first lockdown," joked Fin.

Shannon added: "I taught my brother and helped with my sister as well while they were off school. We're excited some things are back and it seems quite busy in town."

Annette Knight, from Shrewsbury, was taking her daily stroll through town with her dogs Luna, Zanna, Figgy and Raisin.

Her daughter is a paramedic who is constantly exposed to the virus, so she believes the lockdown should probably have continued.

She said: "They've just received their testing kits. They've had to bring it in because so many paramedics have been going down with it. She is constantly exposed to it."

Annette Knight and her dogs Luna, Zanna, Figgy and Raisin

Annette, though, is hopeful that the reopening of non-essential shops will give a boost to the town's small independents.

"It's not as busy as I thought it would be actually," she said.

"I always walk the dogs through town. There's obviously a few more people than there has been, but I expected to see more people.

"It's nice to see the shops open again. They need it, especially the independents. I have friends who will come all the way from Birmingham for the little independent shops."

Anita Francis and her daughter Yasmin and son James, 19 months, visited Shrewsbury from Church Stretton to do a bit of Christmas shopping.

Nursing assistant Anita feels things ought to get back to normal now, and said: "I think it's about time. I get it that some people are vulnerable and they need to be careful. But people who are healthy should be out and about.

"The first lockdown was harder to get used to when the pubs shut for the first time. This time it didn't feel like it made a huge difference."

Anita Francis (right) with her daughter Yasmin and son James

Yasmin works full time at Fishmore Hall in Ludlow, and Anita also works there part time.

The pandemic has been a concern for their colleagues.

Anita said: "It's more of a worry for people that are full time. It's been really hard for the hospitality sector."

Lynn Sutton, from Shrewsbury, got together for a coffee and a look around the shops with sister Annette Simmons, from Pontesbury. It was the first time they'd seen each other since before lockdown.

Lynn said: "We wanted to go into Waitrose before it closes, and to have a coffee and a mooch around. I'm glad we can get out again. As long as people are careful I think it's fine. It's busy but people are keeping their distance."

The town centre has taken on a similar look to pre-lockdown, with no traffic allowed along High Street or up Wyle Cop between 11am and 4pm to allow more space for social distancing and outdoor seating.

Buses will be stopping on High Street before 11am and after 4pm in a change to summer arrangements, when town centre buses were redirected along Town Walls.

Free parking is also available throughout December and into the new year.

Sisters Lynn Sutton and Annette Simmons met up in Shrewsbury

Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID, is glad to welcome shoppers back to the town.

He said: “We have been working hard with partners to make the town centre safe and welcoming for people, and creating a more spacious pedestrian environment on our busiest streets has been central to that.

“As we get closer to Christmas, I know a lot of shops are extending their opening hours so people can visit when it’s convenient for them, rather than having to come at busy periods.

“The free parking from 11am every day is a great offer which we hope will encourage more people to support local this Christmas.”

Steve Davenport, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We hope that the social distancing measures, along with free parking in Shropshire Council car parks from 3 December, will encourage people to visit Shrewsbury in the coming weeks and support our local traders.”

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