ROAD closure and social distancing signs have made Knutsford look an ‘eyesore’ and are deterring shoppers from coming into town.

So says business owner Tim Rawson, who is calling on Cheshire East Council to make immediate changes to signs placed across the town.

The signs and barriers were installed by Cheshire East to support social distancing among shoppers.

However Tim, who owns The Edit in King Street, said they were having a major impact on his business and others in the town centre, and ‘making or breaking people's livelihoods at one of the most precarious times in recent history’.

He said the signage layout had made ‘a beautiful town look an eyesore’, which ruined the point of coming to Knutsford.

His customers were being put off driving into town because they thought the car parks were closed, he added, and they thought the town looked ‘terrible’ because of all the signs and barriers.

He said: “The council has put up so much confusing signage and all those barriers and cones such that a driver who can theoretically get to the car park doesn’t think they can, so people are turning round even though the car park is open.

“We have made sales at our Knutsford shop, but there is no doubt we have a significantly reduced footfall because we have a significantly reduced number of visitors in Knutsford.

“Now is the time Knutsford needs to be as open and as welcoming as possible for those who are willing to come into the town.

“We all have our own precautions and safe procedures in place, and there need be no reason for our customers to be hampered or put out.”

Tim has contacted Cheshire East with suggested improvements to the town centre signs.

Road Closed’ signs should be removed as a matter of urgency, he said, as the roads in question were not closed and visitors were turning away once they saw them.

He said: “Red barriers in parking bays should be replaced with silver ones as used for events. The red barriers make the town look like a building site.”

He added that bright red 'Covid-19' signs made the town look like an ‘infected exclusion zone to be avoided at all costs’.

He said: “These should be replaced with softer messaging, such as ‘Parking bays suspended for social distancing’ or ‘Safe social distancing area’.”

He added that parking spaces which were currently unnecessarily blocked should be reopened as they served no purpose in aiding social distancing.

Tim said: “As one-hour stay spaces these represent a large number of potential customers each day.

“None of this level of disruption was necessary in the first place, and to put it right would be a matter of an afternoon’s work.”

Tatton MP Esther McVey is calling for urgent action over the signs.

She said: “We need to be supporting our local traders, who’ve had a very difficult time; the last thing we need is all these awful signs which give the impression we are closed for business, which isn’t the case.

“Knutsford is very much open for business and we do not want people thinking our high street is closed or turning away when they see these confusing signs.

“Businesses more than ever need our support as we begin our recovery and we need to do everything we can to support our high streets. Urgent action is needed regarding these signs and I have made this point to Cheshire East Council. There is no need to emblazon Covid-19 in bold on signs.

“The barriers are unsightly, and the Covid-19 signs need to be removed. They are confusing and stopping people coming into our town.

"We need a welcoming Knutsford telling people about what it has to offer and encouraging them to shop here not drive elsewhere as they think the area’s closed.”

Councillor Laura Crane, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for highways and waste, said: “We would encourage local businesses to maintain dialogue with their town council and their local Cheshire East ward members as we continue to listen and adapt these measures, in what is a changing situation.

“We have to balance supporting the confidence of our most vulnerable residents who may be coming into the high street for the first time, against the needs of our local businesses, who we recognise, need to get back up and running following the pandemic.

“Last weekend was the first after the restrictions were started to be eased by government and more people were able to go to their local high street.

“We continue to liaise with local town councils and are working through future options with regards to how we can soften the measures and encourage footfall into our town centres, such as the use of banners and signs that give a stronger message that our high streets are open for business.

“We continue to welcome feedback, especially now, as we look at the most recent changes to the social distancing guidance from central government and how we might make further changes to the temporary measures.”