The following letter from a local trader to the MP for Witney was sent to The Bridge. As our next edition will not appear until the 28 day lockdown will be nearly over (although we don't know what will follow it), we are putting this on our website. We would like to encourage our readers to do what they can to support local businesses during this difficult time.
Dear Robert Courts, I am a retail trader in Burford High St and along with all other non essential shops, we have closed both in this lockdown and last. I was shocked and indeed, deeply demoralised, to hear that Burford Garden Centre does not have to close when the rest of us do. This cannot be fair, let alone Covid safe, in this time when we are trying to stop people congregating anywhere. I am sure you are familiar with Burford Garden Centre. It is, in reality, a substantial department store selling a wide range of up-market interiors items including furniture, clothing, books, ornaments, antiques, toiletries, cards, and much more beyond the garden items it sells. It seems completely wrong to me that they can continue to sell all the items that we traders here in Burford would love to offer but are stopped from doing so. Can you please explain to me why, at the very least, Burford Garden Centre is not forced to seal off all the luxury goods it sells, leaving it solely with plants to sell? The consequence of it remaining fully open, in this critically important run up to Christmas, is that people will gravitate to that store because all others are closed. That is not only unfair on all those other local traders but seriously dangerous in terms of Covid-19 transmission. No matter the extent of social distancing put in place, so many people gathering in one establishment and its large car park is a health danger in itself. I would be most grateful if you could voice my concerns with the Prime Minister and colleagues. It seems to me that the current lockdown legislation has a dangerous and deeply unfair loophole in it. Yours sincerely, Dr Amanda Palmer
7 November 2020
On 9 November this story featured prominently on BBC Oxford News: