Shropshire Council Newsroom

Shropshire Council Newsroom.

Shropshire Council’s priority during the coronavirus pandemic is to protect the health and safety of the public and to save lives. For this to happen, everyone needs to behave responsibly.

The council has welcomed the most recent easements that have led to the reopening of ‘non-essential’ retail from 15 June 2020; this is clearly good news for the local economy. But it is vital that those businesses that are permitted to open do so in a ‘COVID-19 secure’ manner, and that those businesses that are not yet permitted to open remain closed.

Any failure on the part of businesses to adhere to the restrictions will risk increasing the transmission of COVID-19 and undermining the road to economic recovery.

Whilst there are certain exemptions, broadly the businesses that must continue to remain closed are those in the hospitality trade, including holiday accommodation and certain types of tourist attractions that create large gatherings, together with those offering personal care services. Full details of the current closure restrictions can be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/regulation/4 and additional guidance is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance.

Clearly, we are aware that the next stage of the Government’s phased response to the coronavirus will be implemented no earlier than Saturday 4 July 2020: however, the details remain unconfirmed, and until the legislation is amended the businesses referred to above must remain closed.

It is hugely important that businesses and the public understand that the changes planned for July in Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap will only come into force if the evidence shows the rate of transmission of the virus is low, and the plans that are in place to maintain social distancing are effective.

Since the Government introduced the legislation that enforced the closure of certain licensed premises, council officers have adopted a proportionate and pragmatic approach to enforcing business closure restrictions and this will continue.

We are, however, aware of a number of breaches of the business closure requirements, particularly in relation to pubs and cafes offering takeaway food and drinks,where business owners are making tables and chairs available in adjacent outdoor spaces.

Takeaways are permitted to operate providing social distancing and other public health measures are in place to protect customers and staff, and for alcohol ‘off sales’ these must be authorised on the licence; however, it is currently illegal to provide outside seating.

We are also receiving reports indicating potential contraventions in relation to certain indoor tourist attractions, tanning salons, hairdressers and barbers. We stress that these businesses must remain closed, and we continue to urge all business owners to carefully consider the provisions of the legislation and the Government guidance before making any decisions to reopen.

The council has officers with the expertise and skills to advise and support businesses as the restrictions are lifted, and business owners are strongly encouraged to seek this advice.

Frances Darling, Shropshire Council’s trading standards and licensing operations manager, said:

“We do understand that these are extremely challenging times and we want to reassure businesses that we will provide the support they need. However, for now, I urge all those businesses that cannot yet open to be patient and not to risk breaching the restrictions. Failure to observe the rules may lead to formal enforcement action, but more significantly there is a risk that the transmission rate of the coronavirus will increase, economic recovery will be undermined, and this will be detrimental to all.

“I want to thank all businesses for their efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and ask that they continue to take this responsibility seriously.

“I would also urge the public not to put pressure on those businesses that must remain closed to trade in any way, and to take appropriate social distancing and other hygiene measures to reduce and prevent the spread of the virus when they are out and about in our high streets.”

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services, said:

“The protection of the health and safety of the public is our number one priority, but everyone has a responsibility.

“It is crucial that business premises that are not permitted to open do remain closed, and those that can trade do so only if they can ensure their premises are safe to protect staff and customers from the spread of coronavirus.

“We have highly knowledgeable and skilled staff who are happy and able to help businesses and the public with any concerns they may have. If you need to speak with us, please get in touch. We are here to help.”