Popular grocer under threat

By and

Robinsons Greengrocers on North Road faces an uncertain future as Durham’s bus station renovations disrupt business. The bus station is currently closed whilst renovations take place, but works have dragged on, leading to significant issues for local businesses.

Temporary bus stops outside Robinsons Greengrocers are having a major effect on business; owner Sandi Robinson estimated that the shop had faced a 60% drop in customers as a result of the issues.

In a letter to Durham County Council, signed by Robinson and several other business owners, including Cooplands Bakery and the Golden Pearl, it was claimed that the current allocation of bus stops on North Road was “dangerous and unhealthy”, with the letter calling on the Council to “alleviate the public health dangers” posed by the crowds.

Owners have faced crowding, diesel fume pollution, and issues with litter, right outside the independent businesses.

Robinsons explained how customers, many of them pensioners, have been put off by the crowds, especially given the ongoing pandemic. The letter went on to argue that Robinson’s and Cooplands were “the worst example” of businesses being affected by the crowds, as “for nearly two hours in the afternoon the large congregation of school children block the entrances and effectively close the shops.”

“The most distressing matter of all is the growing feeling that we don’t matter at all”

-North road businesses

Sandi Robinson, the owner of Robinsons Greengrocers, noted that Robinsons’ business model was built around the Bus Station as an access point to people living outside Durham. Not only is Robinsons facing issues from crowding outside the shop, customers from outside Durham are struggling to make the journey to the greengrocer, as buses face major delays.

A lack of drivers and a lack of buses has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Robinsons receives significant custom from students but students tend to default to Tesco. The challenge is making students aware of local shops, Sandi says. She has tried various methods of promoting the business to students in the past, and the shop currently offers a 10% discount to students. Sandi encouraged students to “seek out local business, which offer significant rewards to students”.

EcoDU told Palatinate: “by shopping at Robinson’s you are directly helping the local Durham economy as well as supporting many local British farms.” Shopping there also reduces plastic waste as most of their produce comes in its natural form, without plastic packaging.”

“100 years ago, every town would have had a small independent greengrocer like Robinson’s. However, our food is now supplied to us predominantly by large corporations who have killed many small businesses in the UK.”

“Seek out local business which offer significant rewards to students”

Sandi, owner of robinson’s gorcery

Businesses on North Road said in the letter sent to the council: “The most distressing matter of all is the growing feeling that we don’t matter at all. With two newly
elected Councils, we sincerely hope for better communication and response to our concerns.”

A meeting was held with the Council, but local businesses have yet to receive any plans regarding North Road.

Dave Wafer, Durham County Council’s head of transport and contract services, told Palatinate: “We are aware of concerns raised by businesses regarding the temporary bus stops on North Road, and we are looking at measures that can be put in place to encourage more shoppers to

“We are keeping businesses up-to-date with progress of the works, including letter drops and updates to our web page, and surveys are ongoing to review stand allocations.

“We will also be undertaking remedial works where possible on North Road to make the area more accessible and appealing for shoppers, including additional cleaning, signage to inform visitors that businesses are open, and adding markings to footpaths asking people to keep door areas clear while using the temporary
bus stops.”

Image: Poppy Askham

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