Barriers are 'crippling' town centre says Calderdale shop keeper

A Calderdale businessman has hit out at the council’s decision to not remove barriers running throughout a town centre.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 9:23 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 9:26 am

Oliver Blackburn, 28, runs Websters Distinctive Furniture in Commercial Street, Brighouse, and said the barriers make the town’s main shopping street resemble a ‘construction site’.

The barriers were placed by Calderdale Council in June to help keep members of the public two metres apart outside of households where possible amid coronavirus.

Mr Blackburn said: “Our argument is the road is wide enough to keep socially distant.

Oliver Blackburn, right, from Websters Distinctive Furniture, with, from the left, John Murphy from Czerwik, Ristan Abdulstar and Shwan Mahmood from Final Cuts, Tony Ellis from North SK, Mohammad Haroon from Brighouse Mobiles, Val Caine from Hallmark, Sean Custance from S&L Custance Butchers, Gareth Hutton from The Veg Shop, Zoe Hepworth from Fratellis Caffe Bar, Lynn Custance, Josh Donaire from Dons, Danny Wilcock from Vape Road and John Gilroy from Fawcett and Thorntons.

“More narrow roads near the town centre that don’t have barriers, so I don’t understand why Commerical Street does.

“It’s crippling business because the public are choosing to avoid the area and shop at supermarkets instead.”

Now Mr Blackburn and fellow business owners on Commercial Street have started a petition to bring the matter urgently to the council.

“The barriers are deterring people from shopping with us,” said Mr Blackburn.

Calderdale Councillor Jane Scullion

“By deterring, the barriers are changing shopping habits during the pandemic, which could continue as soon the virus is under control.

“They’re not the sole reason businesses on Commercial Street are struggle, but they’re definitely a main factor.

“The barriers are stopping people from parking outside of our shops, which has always been convenient for our clientele, which is mainly the elderly.”

The petition has been signed by independent retailers and national chains, and needs a total of 200 signatures to be reviewed by council.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, Jane Scullion, said: “We recognise the value of Brighouse town centre as a shopping destination and have therefore used Emergency Active Travel Funding from Government to expand the pavement space in the town in order to create a safe environment for social distancing.

“We’re continuing to monitor the site regularly and have found people to be using this space, particularly when the town is busy. However, we’re reviewing whether the barriers could now be safely removed as people have now become more used to the need to social distance.

We’re also monitoring overall car-parking figures and I’m pleased that usage appears to be increasing.

“Whereas figures for August showed a 50% overall reduction in car-park usage compared to the same month in 2019, this had reduced significantly to only 25% by September.

“We’re committed to supporting our local towns and the initial accelerator funding we’ve received from Government as part of the Towns Fund, will be used to make more aesthetic improvements in Brighouse town centre, such as new seating and green spaces.

“This is being led by responses to a comprehensive consultation exercise earlier this year, which showed support for greater pedestrian priority.

“To help prevent the spread of the virus within our communities, we should continue to keep two metres away from people outside our households.”