A SHOP owner has remained defiant despite being ordered to close by police and the council.

Alasdair Walker-Cox, who has run Grace Cards and Books in Droitwich for more than 30 years, has kept his shop open during the second coronavirus lockdown, despite being told by the authorities he has to close.

Mr Walker-Cox said the shop sells essential items including food and cake supplies, and needs to remain open as the financial support offered by the government is not enough.

He said: “The government grant doesn’t cover the rent, so we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

"We came back from holiday when the new restrictions were introduced and checked our lease, which said we can sell ‘essential’ items, so we remained open.”

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Since then, however, police officers have come to the shop and ordered it to be closed, with a prohibition notice being imposed by Wychavon District Council, who say they are just following the rules.

The shop was also issued a fine earlier this week, but Mr Walker-Cox said the store will remain open until the current restrictions end on December 2.

He said: “It doesn’t seem right that shops like WH Smiths can stay open when they sell pretty much the same things as us.

"There are dozens of independent businesses like ours all over the country facing the same problem, so we are planning to carry on and try to stay open until the restrictions end.”

A video shared widely on social media shows police officers issuing the prohibition notice and ordering the shop to shut.

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Since then, both West Mercia Police and Wychavon District Council have explained their actions.

Chief superintendent Paul Moxley said: “We remain hugely sympathetic to the difficult times that business owners, particularly small and independent businesses, are having to endure.

"This shop had already been advised previously by Wychavon District Council that they should not be open within the current restrictions and the shop had already been issued with a Prohibition Notice.

“Clearly, at the time of the visit, that notice was being breached. Our officers were therefore simply visiting the premises to advise, and will report their findings to Wychavon District Council.

"We understand the restrictions can be challenging, and we know this business is well-loved in Droitwich, but the Government legislation is in place to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and to keep us all safe. We all have a critical part to play in that.”

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In addition, a council spokesman said: "Officers from Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) and West Mercia Police have visited or contacted Grace's Cards and Books on several occasions to engage with the owners to encourage them to comply with the current Covid-19 regulations and avoid further action.

"Unfortunately, due to continued breaches of the regulations, West Mercia Police, on behalf of WRS, served a Fixed Penalty Notice to the business on 23 November for £1,000.

"Wychavon District Council has considered an appeal submitted by the business that claims as they sell confectionary and sugar craft products, they should be allowed to continue to remain open as they are essential items.

"The food offering is not substantial enough to detract from the business' core activity which is a card and gift shop.

"The food items highlighted also do not allow the business to meet the examples of food retailers set out in the relevant legislation, which includes food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops.

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"We note the business also claims to be selling newspapers and should therefore be treated as a newsagent.

"WRS officers saw no visible sign of these items when visiting the store and satisfied themselves the core business was the sale of cards and gifts.

"As set out in previous statements issued by Wychavon and West Mercia Police regarding this issue, we understand and sympathise with all businesses in these challenging times.

"We also reiterate our desire to work with local communities and businesses, encouraging everyone to comply with current legislation to help stop the spread of the virus and avoid fines and other enforcement activity.

"We look forward to next week when we hope all businesses will be able to reopen and we will continue to support our local traders throughout this pandemic, and afterwards, as we start the recovery process."