THE owners of a card and book shop slapped with fines of nearly £20,000 for refusing to close during lockdown say they are prepared to fight all the way to court.

Grace Cards and Books has been hit with a fourth fine, of £10,000, for continuing to open despite not being being recognised as an essential trader by the authorities.

But owners of the St Andrew’s Street shop, Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox, argue as they sell items offered by shops still allowed to trade, including newspapers and confectionary, it can legally stay open - a claim disputed by Wychavon District Council.

In a viral youtube videoWest Mercia Police and Wychavon District Council officers are seen telling the owners the Droitwich shop must close under the law as it is not essential.

But Mrs Walker-Cox argues: “A garden centre is open from 10 to 6, what is essential about that?”

When it is again put to Mrs Walker-Cox the shop must close like others, she responds: “That is easy for you to say.

"When the rubber hits the road, if it was you who didn’t have a job and can’t provide for your family and can’t pay your bills then it would be different.”

The video ends with Mrs Walker-Cox appearing to be arrested for failing to wear a mask in the shop.

When the Worcester News contacted Mrs Walker-Cox, she said: "All I want to say is we are just prepared to go to court for it.

"We have got legal representation for it, we are handing everything over to our solicitors. We are willing to fight it all the way.”

The shop’s owners were issued with a £10,000 fine on February 10 by Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS), acting on behalf of Wychavon District Council.

A prohibition notice was issued at the start of the January lockdown ordering the business to close, which did prompt the store to shut temporarily before opening again.

The shop has previously been fined £1,000, £2,000 and £4,000 for continuing to trade.

Wychavon District Council said discussions had now been taking place about further action, including a forced closure or court action, due to concerns about the risk the shop’s continued opening poses to public health.

It said WRS officers had made it clear as the core of the business was selling cards, gifts, and other non-essential items they must close but can continue to trade online and offer a delivery service.

Councillor Bradley Thomas, leader of Wychavon District Council, said: “Despite the impact coronavirus regulations are having on businesses, the vast majority of our traders are following the rules because they want to play their part in bringing infections down to help protect our NHS and save lives.

“It’s disappointing this one particular business feels the need to flout the rules and we will work with our partners to take further action, if needed, to protect the public.

“Financial support is available to businesses and we are working hard to get that money out as fast as possible. While infections are coming down in Wychavon, they are still high, and our local NHS remains under significant pressure.

“We have a plan to support businesses to rebuild once this pandemic is over. That day will come much faster if we all follow the rules and help get back on top of this virus.”