SHOPKEEPERS in Middlewich say they are losing trade after parking bays were taken away along Wheelock Street.

Cheshire East Council removed some of the bays ahead of the reopening of non-essential shops last Monday to allow social distancing, but some businesses say the move is hurting trade.

Aiden Devaney, of Devaney’s Butchers, said: “These bollards blocking parking spaces outside the shop have badly affected business. People can’t be walking a distance in rain like we had this week.”

Adnan Ashraf, of Middlewich News and Post Office, said: “Last week after these were put up we lost a lot of business; a lot of our customers are elderly or disabled and need to park close by.”

CEC had originally planned to close Wheelock Street to traffic ahead of last Monday, but U-turned on that decision following pressure from Middlewich residents and the town council.

Middlewich's MP Fiona Bruce discussed the issue with shopkeepers over the weekend. She has since written to CEC, insisting the barriers placed to block Wheelock Street parking bays are ‘causing real consternation’.

She said: “I cannot understand the merit of these barriers. People have enough common sense to move aside or across the road to observe social distancing and the loss of parking has been detrimental at a time when we need to do as much as we can to support small shops and local trade.”

Cllr Laura Crane, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for highways and waste, said the council is trying to find the balance between supporting businesses and keeping the public safe.

Cllr Crane said: “We would encourage local businesses to maintain dialogue with their town council and Cheshire East ward members as we continue to listen and adapt these measures.

“We have to balance supporting the confidence of our most vulnerable residents who may be coming into the high street for the first time, against the needs of local businesses who we recognise need to get back up and running.

“Last weekend was the first after the restrictions were started to be eased by government and more people were able to go to their high street. We continue to liaise with town councils and are working through options to how we can soften the measures and encourage footfall into our town centres, such as banners and signs that give a stronger message that our high streets are open for business.”