Residents were shocked on Friday to learn that Warley Hill's Emporium Discount Store had been forcibly closed by Brentwood Council's enforcement team under lockdown rules.
Despite shelves full of essential cleaning products, medical supplies, light bulbs, batteries, tools, toilet rolls, watch batteries, face masks and so much more, officers demanded its closure, whilst leaving similar chain stores trading in the High Street.
Posting on the store's Facebook page, proprietor Barry Rose said:
"I could understand them closing me if I was trying to pull a fast one by stocking up just a few essentials to bypass the law but I believe about 80/90% of my stock to be essential. I've supplied home/school workers with ethernet leads and cleaners,nurseries etc with pro grade anti virus cleaners. On Tuesday I went to an elderly lady's flat to fit a cordless doorbell so she could hear her carers arrive and in front of the enforcement team I had to refuse an elderly gentleman in who had accidentally locked himself out of his home and wanted some tools to help get himself back in. Next week it's going to be minus temperatures so let's hope no one elderly or vulnerable needs a heater urgently".
Cllr Karen Chilvers (Brentwood West) learnt of this Friday evevening and immediately challenged the Chief Executive. This led to an investigation on Saturday morning but, shockingly, officers would not budge.
"The Emporium is the only store of its kind in Warley and is vital for the many people in the area. Mr Rose keeps the Warley area functioning and will help anyone in the community. I know he is extremely distressed about the welfare of his many elderly and vulnerable customers who now will have to make a journey in to Brentwood - against central government advice - to buy exactly the same products that he stocks. It is unbelievable that, after all the big talk the Conservatives give about supporting local trade that they target a small independent that has looked after the community for over 20 years, shutting them down whilst not bothering the larger stores".
The store has introduced social distancing measures throughout since the start of the pandemic.
Cllr Chilvers has been inundated with emails in support of The Emporium with many pointing out the community role it plays in helping young families, elderly and vulnerable people in an area of low car ownership.
She added: "As of yesterday evening, I am pleased to say that I have secured an urgent review of this decision at 8am Monday morning".
Please email Karen to offer your support to The Emporium.
Cllr Karen Chilvers has been borough councillor for Brentwood West since 2007 and is our candidate for the 2021 Borough Council election on Thursday 6 May. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org