Jersey’s key business lobby group is demanding that Broad Street be reopened immediately, claiming that the Minister that closed it for ‘medical reasons’ was never advised to do so.
Infrastructure Minister Deputy Kevin Lewis announced that the road would be shut to traffic back in March.
The move upset numerous businesses in the area, with one saying it has left the zone a “ghost town”, and the MD of Romerils claiming that the pandemic was being used as an excuse to fast-track a pre-existing plan.
Others expressed frustration at the loss of parking spaces and a bus stop on the road.
Pictured: Deputy Kevin Lewis, the Minister for Infrastructure.
But Deputy Lewis has thus far resisted calls to reopen it - including a from an e-petition that garnered over 1,000 signatures.
He maintains that his decision was taken on the advice of health professionals amid concerns that physical distancing would not otherwise be possible to prevent the spread of covid.
But the Chamber of Commerce are disputing this.
Following what was described as a “lengthy process of being passed from department to department”, the group said it discovered that neither the Minister for Health nor the Medical Officer for Health asked for the road to be closed.
They are now calling for the road to be reopened immediately.
Pictured: A quiet Broad Street since the closure.
Chamber also wants any further decisions to close the street to be the result of a “transparent, timely and consultative process involving the businesses and users of this route”.
“The Broad Street closure makes little sense, and it is now clear that the medical advice has not called for this road to be closed,” Chamber’s Retail and Supply Chair and former Town Centre Manager Daphne East said.
“Given the main concerns of safe distancing are for indoors rather than outdoors, it appears very odd that one can be seated in a bar or restaurant, but the Minister insists closing Broad Street, as opposed to any other roads, is supporting physical distancing.”
Chamber’s Vice President John Shenton added: “It has been a long-held political wish of some to have Broad Street pedestrianised. That is a discussion and consultation to be had, but it does appear that the Minister is using covid-19, to close a particular road, citing ‘health risks’ when no other roads are closed and neither STAC nor the Health Minister have requested it. It does a disservice to the open and transparent decision making we expect of our Government departments.”
Responding to Chamber this morning, the Government did not say it would be reopening the road, but invited dialogue with the business lobby group.
A spokesperson said: "Broad Street is currently closed to traffic to allow physical distancing at particular pinch points in St. Helier.
"Providing public spaces for physical distancing is part of our effort to encourage people, especially those at high-risk, to feel confident to come back into town.
"Contrary to the Chamber of Commerce announcement, medical advice is that it would not be prudent to relax measures further and that, as we enter the autumn and winter, we may need to re-escalate our ability to distance when outside the home.
"This is being kept under review and the Chief Minister has extended an invite to meet with Chamber representatives to discuss the Government's response to covid."
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