ANGRY business owners are demanding action against canvassers and charity workers who they say are stopping people visiting the high street.
Companies on one of Leigh’s main retail streets say people looking to visit the shops have to run a gauntlet of pop-up stalls, people selling charity wristbands or signing up new donors and religious preachers.
The businesses on Bradshawgate are now demanding action from Wigan Council, saying some of the stalls are directly competing with established stores.
Council chiefs say they are now considering establishing a ‘public spaces protection order’ to ban beggars from the areas.
Disgruntled traders have also written a letter to Leigh MP Andy Burnham, saying attempts to resolve the problem with the town hall and councillors have failed to produce improvements.
Les Rigby, who runs gaming arcade Mr Rigby’s Leisuretime, said: “There’s definitely a decreasing footfall in Leigh and customers are complaining every time they come in.
“The main problem is Wigan Council is giving licences for people to run pop-up stalls, even though we have some of the same shops in the street. When shops are paying rates, rents and staff costs I think it’s scandalous.
“One on occasion they allowed Asda to give pies away and advertise their store outside Greenhalgh’s and the Pound Bakery. That’s in direct opposition to us and I’m sure Asda wouldn’t let us set up a stall in front of the supermarket encouraging people to come to shop on Bradshawgate.
“There’s also problems with people peddling phones, gas, electricity, PPI compensation, Sky TV and other things. These people stand outside our front doors and hassle passing customers.
“We had two people recently selling wristbands for a domestic violence charity and when our member of staff approached them to ask for ID they swore at her.
“There’s also a preacher who comes into the street with a microphone and you can hear him right at the back of the arcade even if you close the door. It’s just this terrible noise.
“I am all for freedom of speech but his words infuriate and scare people. If I left my doors open and had music on I think the authorities would be straight down on me, but he can apparently stand with an amplifier and shout what he wants.”
Businesses in Leigh are also calling for more visible policing to move on unlicensed canvassers and sellers and deal with anti-social behaviour including begging and drinking in the street.
Several traders are also considering trying to organise a public meeting to allow the strength of feeling to be heard.
John Fazackerley, who runs Fazackerley’s Furniture Shop on Silk Street, said: “It needs drastic action. Beggars and canvassers can just approach anybody and a lot of people, particularly older ladies, don’t have the confidence to just say no to them.
“It’s drawing people away, people coming in the shop say they used to enjoy coming to Leigh but now they don’t know who’s going to accost them. This problem has grown over the last few months.”
A Wigan Council spokesman said: “The council is working with its partners to address some of the issues outlined, in particular the problem with persistent begging.
“We have been seeking advice from our legal team to look at the best way of dealing with this and are in the very early stages of considering a public spaces protection order that would cover the area.”
“This order would address a number of issues in Leigh town centre and would give the council and police some additional powers to tackle these problems. We would need to undertake a period of public consultation before this is put in place. Until this has been completed we will continue to work with GMP to try to address issues as they arise.”