Residents have until the weekend to have their say on whether Witney High Street should remain closed to traffic once social distancing is removed.

When the first lockdown of 2020 was eased West Oxfordshire District Council – like many councils across the country – introduced measures to restrict the High Street to buses, cycles, taxis and disabled badge holders only to allow social distancing on the pavements.

The measures were later removed from Lower High Street, to the north of the Welch Way roundabout, when it was found there was not enough footfall to justify them and the loss of parking spaces was impacting businesses.

But business owners on the section that remains closed are angry about the restrictions, claim there was scant consultation and say they are killing trade at a time when the high street is already on its knees.

Dominic Boyett, managing director of UE Coffee Roasters, said: “We have premises at number 62 and 47 on the High Street and number 62 closed because of the measures. Because of the measures our business is down 60 per cent. There is no passing trade, the footfall literally diminished.

“Our customers park up, jump out, get a coffee – we don’t get that any more.”

He said he was sympathetic to the reasons for the measures being introduced.

He said: “The council had no choice but to be seen to be doing something but it literally happened without us being involved in the process. When the high street was closed off for business people presumed it was a no-go area.

Oxford Mail: Dominic Boyett, managing director of UE Coffee Roasters. Picture Mark Hemsworth

“Number 62 shut in July last year. That was our busiest store. A lot of businesses in town are up in arms.”

He said the removal of the measures from the bottom part of the high street was “only because a lot of businesses said this is drastic. For us it was too late.

“Currently the Market Square footfall is down 60 per cent so we’re now at a point where we’re having to weigh up what to do. There are habits that people get into and now they don’t go to that side of town.”

Mustafa Didek, owner of Smarts Fish and Chips on the Market Square said he had complained to the council about the road closure which had affected his business “100 per cent”.

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He said: “It needs to reopen, it’s affecting a lot of shops and small businesses. With the lockdown and everything it’s hard to say how much business I have lost but it’s had a massive, massive impact.”

He estimated he lost 60 to 70 per cent of his call and collect business.

He said: “There is no footfall - people used to drive by and pop in.”

Meanwhile Henry Mo, owner of Sandwich de Witney, a sandwich and salad bar that mainly operates as a takeaway, said the road closure had affected him “quite a bit”.

Oxford Mail: Henry Mo of Sandwich de Witney

He said: “We’ve lost a lot of builders who used to come in because they can’t park and phone and collect orders.

“Also people used to be here for half a day doing some shopping and they would get some food. It’s hard to know how much business we’ve lost because of lockdown but our trade is 30 per cent down although there are other reasons for that.

“I will do the survey and I will say the closure has gone on long enough. The streets are very quiet.

“Our delivery drivers can’t park either, even though the streets are empty. Even if they just do a quick delivery they get a ticket.”

However, on the Witney Gazette website this week some residents welcomed the closure and claimed the rewards would be a quieter and safer street.

Ray Rodgers commented: “It is much more pleasant to linger and shop in the High St now; hopefully it will shortly be partially pedestrianised, but something needs to be done to stop the idiots who race up the High St endangering pedestrians.

“When the Shores Green slip roads are in place the High St should be totally pedestrianised. Done properly it would enhance the shopping experience.”

Now the council has launched a survey to canvas views on whether the measures should stay in place once all legal limits on social contact are removed.

The council urges respondents to “consider factors such as accessibility, ease of parking, traffic safety, impact on pedestrians, cyclists or those with mobility issues, the shopping environment, air quality and climate change etc.”

Cllr Suzi Coul, cabinet member for finance, said: “During the height of the pandemic we took the decision to temporarily restrict vehicle access to the High Street to help with social distancing, keep people safe and help people to continue to access the High Street.

“Since the pandemic began we have worked hard to include as many local groups and businesses as possible in our decisions and we have adjusted the restrictions on the High Street following discussions and feedback from local businesses.

“We are currently asking residents and businesses for their views on the future and we want to come to a solution that works for everyone.”

When asked whether the council had considered the likely effects on surrounding traffic were the high street to remain closed, a spokesman for WODC said they “would not pre-empt the results of the survey”.

The survey, at, is open until Sunday July 4.