Confusion and uncertainty for those on Leicester lockdown border

Richard Vernalls, PA
·5-min read

There has been confusion and uncertainty for residents and businesses on the hastily imposed Leicester lockdown border.

Sitting on the invisible line that forms part of the boundary governing where new tightened restrictions are in place is Stoughton Grange, on Gartree Road.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Firms as diverse as a pottery painting shop, a gastro pub and a bridal boutique have found themselves inside the country’s first local lockdown, subject to the new measures.

Businesses that had spent the past few weeks deep-cleaning, applying fresh paint and hanging baskets full of flowers have now been told they must remain closed.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tightened restrictions on parts of the city and nearby suburbs on Monday, ordering non-essential shops to close and urging people not to travel in or out of the area.

Measures were imposed following the rapid rise of coronavirus cases in the city.

A report by Public Health England has found “no explanatory outbreaks in care homes, hospital settings or industrial processes”.

Some businesses are unaffected as they are not open to the public, or deal solely online, but for others the new measures have brought fresh uncertainty.

Mel Heel, owner of Bridal Reloved, who has her store in Stoughton Grange, said she found out about the lockdown in a message from a friend late on Monday night.

With two bookings the following day and her diary full of fittings until August, she said she had been looking forward to reopening but knew the local measures were coming.

Coronavirus – Thu Jul 2, 2020
Mel Heel in her wedding dress boutique Bridal Reloved in Leicester (Joe Giddens/PA)

However, she said there had been no direct contact from local councils or health officials, or signage put up, to make clear where the lockdown fell, or what specific measures were needed.

“To find out at 9.20pm that you can’t open the next day, when you had been building up to get back to work, wasn’t great,” she said.

“I’d got two appointments the next day, as I’ve only been doing a couple per day – the dresses have to be steamed and cleaned and put into quarantine.

“So it’s frustrating, really frustrating.

“All these businesses here were only opened within the last couple of weeks, and many are now having to close again.

“I think the way in which the lockdown was put in place and communicated to people could have been handled better, though I think it’s absolutely necessary to keep everyone safe.”

Seeing that her business was on the border, she looked at a map produced by local authorities showing the lockdown area in red.

“I couldn’t make head nor tail of it,” she added. “When you look at the map, the lockdown boundary ends halfway down (Gartree) Road.”

She used Leicestershire County Council’s postcode checker, which showed that hers and neighbouring businesses are inside the lockdown area.

Neighbouring pottery painting workshop and cafe Lollipops is run by Phillipa Newham, who took over the well-established business last November.

She said she had been getting ready to open on July 4 after remaining shut throughout lockdown because, having an on-site cafe, it was classed as a hospitality firm.

Mrs Newham said: “We wouldn’t have opened even if we’d been just on the outside of the border, I think, because you can’t take the risk.

“For us, how would we have known where people had come from? I think it’s going to be really difficult for businesses to monitor that.

HEALTH Coronavirus Leicester
(PA Graphics)

In nearby Scraptoft on the city’s east side, the invisible border where the city limits meet those of Harborough District are usually only obvious from different bin collection days.

However, neighbours living within touching distance are now guided by different rules.

Those living in Kinross Avenue are within the city, while those a footstep away in Telford Way are outside the lockdown zone.

The boundary falls where the old railway line once ran, according to 74-year-old retired bricklayer David Blohm, who lives in Telford Way.

Asked about the different rules, he said: “My neighbours won’t be able to go for a meal at the Rose & Crown, and they’ll have to stay two metres apart.

“Meanwhile I can go to the pub.

Coronavirus – Thu Jul 2, 2020
Amy Stephens and her children cross the invisible lockdown boundary in Leicester as David Blohm looks on from his house – on the unrestricted side of the line (Joe Giddens/PA)

“I think until a vaccine comes along, it’ll keep coming back at us, like the seasonal flu.”

He added: “My wife’s not happy, she’s got a hair appointment Saturday and it’s half a mile away – in the lockdown area.”

Jack Gutteridge, 25, lives with his mother and stepfather Helen and Lee Bale, next-door to Mr Blohm – but they are inside the restricted zone.

He said: “It is what it is, although I understand that the boundary here is pretty arbitrary.

“It’s not changed things much for us as we weren’t planning on going out a lot.

“I’ve heard they want to stop people driving to places like Nottingham though, so are telling people they have to bring a council tax bill to the pubs as proof of where they live.”

Speaking earlier this week, county council leader Nick Rushton said: “Clearly coronavirus does not adhere to lines on a map.

“This is the first localised lockdown on this scale and undoubtedly there will be issues to iron out.”