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‘It’s pure ignorance’ - Pedestrians criticised for not following distancing measures

PUBLISHED: 19:00 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:01 28 July 2020

Kevin Huggins, inset, chairman of Gorleston Traders Association, has said the town's High Street is

Kevin Huggins, inset, chairman of Gorleston Traders Association, has said the town's High Street is "in crisis". Picture: Nick Butcher/Gareth Howe.

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Shops on a normally bustling high street could be forced to close if pedestrians fail to follow a one-way system designed for social distancing, the chairman of a local traders association has said.

An empty Gorleston High Street on Friday (July 24) with barriers designed to allow for social distancing. Picture: Gareth Howe.An empty Gorleston High Street on Friday (July 24) with barriers designed to allow for social distancing. Picture: Gareth Howe.

In early June, Great Yarmouth Borough Council introduced the temporary measures in preparation for the reopening of shops on Gorleston High Street, where barriers placed on the road next to two of the narrowest stretches of pavement are meant to create more space for pedestrians.

But Kevin Huggins, chairman of the Gorleston Traders Association, has said the measures are “not working”.

“Many shops are seeing a real downturn in business and struggling to make ends meet. The main reason for this is the lack of parking due to the barriers,” he said.

In normal circumstances motorists can park without charge for half an hour on the High Street.

Gareth Howe, 66, runs BG's Diner on Gorleston High Street. Picture: Courtesy of Gareth Howe.Gareth Howe, 66, runs BG's Diner on Gorleston High Street. Picture: Courtesy of Gareth Howe.

Mr Huggins said the one way system for pedestrians is “just in the main being ignored”.

“I’ve spoken to vulnerable people who have been in isolation, they were looking so much forward to coming out of 13 weeks of isolation, but they come down to the High Street, bumping into people walking past them, and they’re going back into isolation, thinking, ‘What’s the point?’.”

He said he has been “getting abuse” when he points out people are walking the wrong way.

“It’s pure ignorance,” he said.

Mark Allen, owner of Fleetwood's Butchers on Gorleston High Street. Picture: Courtesy of Mark Allen.Mark Allen, owner of Fleetwood's Butchers on Gorleston High Street. Picture: Courtesy of Mark Allen.

“I have pleaded with the council to relax the barriers by just having them outside of shops that may have to have people queuing outside but with people continuing to walk the wrong way that won’t happen,” Mr Huggins said.

He said the High Street is “in crisis” and that five shop owners have told him they will close unless business improves.

In a statement, the borough council said it will “be increasing floor markings to highlight the one-way system and stickers on lamp-posts reminding shoppers to keep left”.

“We also plan on opening up a small section of car parking at the north end of the high street,” the council has said.

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Gareth Howe, 66, who runs BG’s Diner with his wife, said: “This time last year the High Street would have been absolutely crowded.

“I accept that we have coronavirus and people are worried. We do understand about social distancing, we’re not complaining about that, but people are not stopping, cars are just driving along, cars are not able to stop.

“I have customers coming in complaining that they can’t park anywhere.”

The diner, which the Howes took over in January, reopened on July 4. “But we’re getting hardly anybody in,” Mr Howe said.

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“In the afternoon I can hear a conversation on the other side of the road, that’s how quiet it is.”

Mark Allen, owner of Fleetwood Butchers, said: “My type of customers, they come to me specifically, pull in and they’re gone again, hence the half an hour parking is ample for customers who use the High Street, but because they can’t park they won’t stop.”

He said the barriers and one-way system are a “complete mess”.

“Footfall into the shop is practically non-existent, because no people are out there.

“Fortunately during lockdown we had started doing deliveries for people who couldn’t go out.”

Mr Allen said 80 to 85pc of his trade is still deliveries, whereas in normal times it would average 10 to 15pc.

“To stop people parking is just ridiculous really,” he said.

Glancing out the shop window across the road to Farm Foods and Wilkinsons, normally a busy spot, especially in mid-July, the butcher said: “All I can see is three people.”


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