Ironbridge trader in row over ending of weekend pavement licence

A move to end a no-car rule allowing businesses to trade outdoors has been criticised by a tea shop owner who said the scheme helped to keep it afloat.

Grays of Shropshire owner Sarah Greenow
Grays of Shropshire owner Sarah Greenow

Cars were banned along The Wharfage, in Ironbridge, on weekends and pavement licences introduced as part of distancing measures and to boost trade.

The initiative allowed businesses including Grays of Shropshire to re-open in the summer and to seat and serve customers outside.

Owner Sarah Greenow said her business bought a licence and furniture suitable for outside seating, but now will not get full use of them due to what she described as an "abrupt" decision by Telford and Wrekin Council to re-introduce traffic on Saturdays and Sundays.

However, a council spokesperson said pavement licence holders were made aware they could only be used during road closure times and that the outdoor service was always likely to be removed in the autumn.

Mrs Greenow said her shop had been closed for 14 weeks due to lockdown when the pavement licence was introduced in late July to help licensed premises trade safely and was a “rescue package” for the business.

“We had people coming and saying they had missed having a real cup of coffee,” she said.

“It was a little piece of normality for a lot of people.”

“The licence isn’t much at £25, but there were a lot of costs on top of that,” she said, adding that six tables, 12 chairs, planters, umbrellas and umbrella stands cost an estimated £600. While trading outdoors, takings were “about a quarter” of the equivalent period the previous year.

Mrs Greenow said the decision was “mind-blowing” and explained that she first found out about the scheme ending from a council contractor.

“I was closing up on September 27 and said to him, ‘I expect we’ll see you next week’,” she said.

“He said ‘No you won’t, this is the last week. We had an email from our boss yesterday. They’re pulling the plug.'”

Mrs Greenow said the shop could accommodate a maximum of “about 20” socially-distanced customers indoors, less than half the pre-coronavirus capacity.

The council added that the safe zone may be required again. It has an online survey seeking residents’, businesses’ and visitors’ views on the scheme which will close on October 16.

Warning

Grays has now launched the Save Ironbridge Traders petition in protest against the move to end the road closure scheme.

The Change.org online petition has so far attracted more than 170 supporters towards a 200 target.

The petition states: "Ironbridge has been hard hit by firstly flooding and now Covid-19.

"Telford and Wrekin Council enabled us to apply for pavement licences to allow for tables and chairs to be used outside, allowing us to continue to open whilst adhering to social distancing.

"Traders invested their time and money in gaining licences and purchasing outdoor furniture.

"Then without warning they withdrew the ability for us to operate using the pavement licence - despite weather still being good enough and the investment made, there was no consultation with us prior to doing this.

"Cafes and restaurants across Europe operate using outside space all year round, why is this not good enough for the Gorge?

"Telford and Wrekin Council - don’t finish off our business! Support us and keep us alive! Allow us to continue to use the pavement and reverse your damaging decision now."

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