MORE than 85 per cent of shoppers say they will avoid Rhyl due to the bollards put in place to promote social distancing.

In addition, nearly 60 per cent of businesses say they have already been impacted by the temporary street furniture.

The findings have been released by Rhyl Bid who have been running a survey to find out how bollards - installed in Queen Street, Bodfor Street and the Promenade by Denbighshire County Council (DCC) - are impacting traders and shoppers.

As part of the Active Travel and Covid 19 scheme, changes have been made to town centres to help make them feel safe during the pandemic.

But Rhyl businesses say the bollards give the appearance the town is closed, create issues for customer parking and deliveries and have been termed an “unaesthetic experiment”.

Safety issues have also been raised.

Abigail Pilling, Rhyl BID manager, said: “Rhyl BID voiced its concerns to DCC prior to the installation of the scheme, and has already provided narratives from individual businesses about the negative impacts they experienced prior to the current lockdown, as well as initial survey responses.

“We believe the lane defenders are damaging, not only to directly affected adjacent businesses, but to the town as a whole, as people struggle to access the shops and services they require, and in some cases avoid travelling into Rhyl altogether.”

Rhyl Bid are running two surveys allowing the public to share views.

Ms Pilling and Nadeem Ahmad, chair of Rhyl BID, have a meeting with DCC this week.

Rhyl Bid have been pushing their survey ahead of a Rhyl Member Area Group (MAG) meeting; Rhyl Bid does not sit on that group but wanted to help provide date evidence.

Mr Ahmad also will be sharing data gathered to the Denbighshire-wide Town Centre Action Group that he participates in monthly.

The results also show that 100 per cent of Rhyl businesses surveyed perceived no issues with social distancing prior to the installation of the lane defenders, and 91 per cent of shoppers surveyed concurred.

"Rhyl Bid has consistently argued against the Active Travel Scheme," Mr Ahmad said.

"All the concerns we raised with DCC officers before, and since the works began, have been borne out and reflected in the survey results so far. I understand the scheme is multi purposed, not just to introduce social distancing measures, but to carry out modelling exercises and collect data on the viability of a long-term aspiration to widen pavements and introduce cycle lanes.

"To have the scheme in place for up to 18 months is not just damaging to directly affected businesses but the town as a whole.

“Widening pavements in the long term is welcome, but the consultation and planning process of these should be done in the normal way, with drawings, visuals and explanations of the potential benefits, not an ‘up to 18 months’ unaesthetic experiment with the towns’ businesses, which is effectively relaying a ‘closed for business’ message outside many of them.

Dr James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd, met with businesses last year to talk about issues being faced

Dr James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd, met with businesses last year to talk about issues being faced

"We will continue to engage DCC to remove the scheme asap."

Ms Pilling added: "Rhyl Businesses, after almost a full year of enforced closures, are eager to get back to business, but need the trading environment to be conducive to operations, and to encourage visitation, now, and from the moment we are able to re-open.

“Businesses in Rhyl have proven they are dedicated, and welcome improvements to our town, and accept that there will be a period of construction, with initial work already beginning on the Queen’s Market.

“Whilst business and shopper response to longer-term Active Travel plans has been mixed, what is clear, is that the promotion of Active Travel and the response to Covid-19 are not one-in-the-same, and the lane defenders cannot, and should not, serve as a segue to Active Travel plans.”

“Rhyl BID is committed to taking action on behalf of businesses, for the betterment of our collective offer, and the wider community.”

Dr James Davies, Vale of Clwyd MP, who spoke out against the scheme last year, said: "Last week, I met representatives from Rhyl BID, who have major concerns and have been collating responses from many local businesses.

"I am aware that Rhyl county councillors met on Monday and will discuss the measures again.

"I remain of the opinion that the bollards serve no useful purpose, are an eyesore, and harm businesses by taking away parking spaces.

"I was assured last year that if the measures should result in any direct negative impact upon businesses, an urgent review would be held. A review of the scheme in Ruthin has already led to a decision to reverse the measures there, while a minor “parklet” in Prestatyn has been removed following local objection.

"We now need to see a decisive and rapid decision made to return the streets of Rhyl town centre to normal, especially as we look forward to the reopening of businesses post-lockdown and the very real need to do all we can to help them recover.”

A spokesperson for Denbighshire County Council said: “We are compiling the results of the first phase of our engagement survey and will publish them in the near future.

"We will continue to engage with members of the public, businesses and elected members.”

To take part in the surveys, click here for businesses and here for shoppers.