Thousands demand Bicester Village shopping outlet closure due to Covid-19 concerns

16 June 2020, 16:49

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for Bicester Village shopping centre to close due to safety concerns about overcrowding.

Residents called for the temporary closure of the upmarket retail outlet in Oxfordshire after images appeared online showing hundreds of people struggling to maintain social distancing while shopping.

The author of the petition, Laura Wicks, said she was "disgusted" to see so many people "squashed into the street like coronavirus never happened."

She called on Value Retail, which runs the complex, to shut the Village until a solution is found to keep shoppers and staff safe or until government guidelines change.

Ms Wicks' petition has had more than 4,600 signatures at the time of writing, with a target of 5,000 being swiftly closed down on.

Hundreds of shoppers visited Bicester Village upon reopening
Hundreds of shoppers visited Bicester Village upon reopening. Picture: Facebook - TheFinleyAdventure

The owners of the outlet, which has 160 shops, have been contacted regarding people's concerns.

On its website, it explains that visitors are temperature-scanned on arrival and they should two metres apart from one another.

Ms Wicks added: "It is horrendous that the people who work there are being forced into an unsafe environment when so many of them have family at home."

Cherwell District Council responded to the concerns of residents saying they are working with the complex to improve safety measures.

Residents are concerned about safety measures at the outlet regarding coronavirus
Residents are concerned about safety measures at the outlet regarding coronavirus. Picture: Facebook - TheFinleyAdventure

A spokesman said: “Cherwell District Council are aware of public concerns regarding management of coronavirus transmission risk at Bicester Village.

"We are engaging positively with the outlet to see what improvements can be made.”

He added the council are in conversations with the management at Bicester Village and staff are on the ground "monitoring the situation."

Non-essential retail shops were free to reopen on Monday so long as they put in safety measures to ensure they are "Covid-19 secure".

In order to reopen on Monday, shops were expected to place a notice on display so customers and staff can see that they are complying with government guidance.

Risk assessments - overseen by local authority staff and the Health and Safety Executive - hygiene procedures - including hand-washing and surface cleaning - and other measures had to be introduced in order for them to reopen.

As well as informing all employees about the assessment's findings, companies with more than 50 employees are expected to publish the results on their website.

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Items returned or "extensively handled" should be isolated for 72 hours or cleaned, guidance states.

Retailers are expected to take steps including limiting how many customers there are inside their building at any one time and frequently cleaning and checking objects and surfaces.

Failure to comply with prohibition notices or paying fixed penalty notices could result in shops being taken to court and facing potentially unlimited fines.