COLCHESTER’S High Steward has accused two councils of “lacking consistency and common sense” over its measures to enforce social distancing.

Sir Bob Russell called for some “joined-up thinking” between Essex County Council and Colchester Council over its management of pavements in North Station Road, Colchester.

He said: “We have a crazy situation where a convenience store has been told by the borough council it must remove purpose-built display shelves fixed to its shop front because it intrudes on the pavement.

“But just feet away there is a grey cabinet containing the electrics for the pedestrian crossing which sticks out further and is thus more of a hazard to pedestrians, if one accepts the display shelves hinder pedestrians, which I do not.

“Continuing with the absurdity, next door is a café which prior to the pandemic lockdown was able to have two tables and four chairs on the pavement.

“The borough council says these are OK, but they clearly take up more of the pavement. The café is re-opening shortly.”

He added: “The borough council is using its total ban on advertisement A-boards outside shops to say the display shelves must go – but in the same street Essex County Council has placed traffic signs on the pavement which are significantly bigger than an A-board and take up far more pavement than the shop’s display shelves.

“There is a complete lack of consistency and common-sense.”

Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council, said: “As Sir Bob mentions, Colchester Council is liaising with the store concerned, and if the store does now apply for a licence, we have the legal duty to decide on that application.

“We are keen to keep pedestrians safe, allowing access for all residents, but we are also keen to support our local businesses.

“I am happy to speak to Colchester Council to understand this specific issue further.

“In terms of our box that controls the pedestrian crossing, and our temporary social distancing signs, I’m sure Sir Bob can see the ‘common-sense’ in both of these.”

A Colchester Council spokesman added: "The advice to businesses remains that they do not need to place safe distancing messages outside their premises, when many such signs advising the public already exist throughout the town centre and when this would also mean contravening the PSPO – which remains in place except where permitted for Essex Highways signs.”