BUSINESS owners in Cardigan have vented their frustration at the reintroduction of the safe zone in the town centre which they say is ‘destroying’ livelihoods.

And they argue that if the scheme is not dropped, it will force shops to close down for good.

Ceredigion County Council has reimposed the scheme in a bid to enforce social distancing following a spike in coronavirus cases in the area.

But at last night’s meeting (Tuesday, December 2) of Cardigan Town Council, several business owners took the opportunity to voice their anger and dismay.

Sharon Hall, of The Big Bite, said she had been forced to close following the introduction of the road closure which had seen takings plummet.

“It’s just not sustainable,” she told town councillors.

“The road closures are a futile and pointless exercise and is ripping the heart out of what was a thriving market town. It’s destroying the town and I don’t see the justification for doing it.”

Go Mango owner Ray Hasler, who has run his shop for 21 years, said he was suffering substantial losses under the safe zone road closure scheme.

“The road closures are absolutely pathetic and we want to know what this town council is doing as unelected officers at Ceredigion Council make these decisions. Decision are being made by the council’s gold command and there is no accountability,” he said.

“We are not being compensated and I am running at a substantial loss. I have six employees. If my shop closes that’s six people who have to find jobs.

“Councillors have got to put pressure on whoever is making these decisions as shops in Cardigan are not going to survive.”

Penny Thomas, who has holiday accommodation on Quay Street, said people were being put off coming to stay at her property due to the constant stream of traffic being diverted from the town centre past the door.

“I bring tourism into the heart of the town all year round. But a post saying the traffic made it dangerous to cross the road went on a national platform and I started to get cancellations,” she said.

“I cannot see how the closure is helping anyone at the moment. There is no-one about and it is damaging to local businesses and another nail in the coffin.”

County councillor and Ceredigion cabinet member Cartin Miles said: “There were some in Cardigan who thought that was the end of the virus and took part in social activities that broke Covid rules.

“Only last month, I stated in my report ‘Covid-19 cases are under control locally but numbers have increased in neighbouring authorities, so it’s still vital to keep to the rules’.

“Since then, increased positive cases has put this town in jeopardy, necessitating the closure of the library, nurseries, Coleg Ceredigion, Flying Start, Jig-So, seven local schools for a two-week period (six in North Pembs, temporarily). Shops and businesses have closed due to staff testing positive and the Fire Brigade put under pressure.

“This is a safety measure taken by the council’s gold command to keep Covid levels low.

“I don’t think we should be angry towards Ceredigion County Council. Ceredigion was doing so well and now Cardigan has put us on the map for breaking the rules. We are doing damage limitation here.”

Cllr John Adams-Lewis, who is also a county councillor, said: “I was not consulted on the first road closure or on this latest closure. I think it is a ridiculous decision.

“The town looks like a graveyard. People are now forced to shop at supermarkets which is what we don’t want to happen and I have every sympathy with the high street shops.”

Fellow county councillor Elaine Evans said she had worked hard in the past week to successfully overturn the decision to reintroduce car parking charges in the town. She was one of those behind a petition which has attracted more than 1,100 signatures opposing the move.

“Again, there was no consultation regarding the road closure. The town is so quiet with so many shops closed, was there a need for it to be implemented?” said Cllr Evans.

“I am so sorry for what is happening to businesses and will keep working to do all I can. This is a time for kindness and sympathy for all. “