THE chairman of Oswestry Chamber of Commerce has urged residents in the town to support local businesses where possible to provide them some relief at the end of a difficult year.

Mark Derham wants the Christmas period to provide a much-needed boost for local and independent businesses after a challenging and unprecedented year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With England set to return to a tiered lockdown system next week, after its four-week national lockdown comes to an end, Mr Derham hopes rules will be clearer and fairer to all businesses.

He said: "It’s a very challenging and unprecedented situation, and you’ve got to feel for the politicians because there’s no playbook for this.

"But I think some consistency certainly for businesses of all sizes is important.

"The big thing to come out of this lockdown over the last four weeks is that the big national retailers have perhaps pushed interpretation to a point where they’re open selling things which small independents can’t.

"That is something which is very noticeable – if we’re trying to protect the independents and the high street, then there needs to be more of a level playing field and a one rule fits all approach.

"Hopefully the next month will be good not only for Oswestry businesses, but businesses in general.

"Hopefully December is able to provide at least a little bit of relief to them."

Mr Derham highlighted the importance of supporting businesses on the high street in order to keep them going into the new year.

He added: "The impact of the tiered system on businesses here really depends on how it is done.

"Shropshire seems to be relatively low in cases compared with other areas of the country, so whether we get treated accordingly or get included in the same tier as some other areas in the West Midlands will decide how businesses cope.

"For us in Oswestry and other places near the border we have the added problem of being near the border and having to consider rules the other side too.

"It’s very challenging, but I hope people can support their local businesses where possible.

"We know it can be easier to use the online retailers and can be very helpful for those self-isolating or working from home.

"But I think it would be nice for people who can support local shops to support them.

"It’s up to us – the shops are there on the high street and if we want to keep them we’ve got to use them."

Chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, Richard Sheehan, warned that ministers cannot keep ‘turning businesses on and off like light switches’ without risking severe and damaging consequences.

This point was echoed by Adele Nightingale, manager of Oswestry BID, who believes the hospitality sector will be hit hard if the tiered system is implemented.

She said: "I would concur with Shropshire Cahmber of Commerce that businesses can't be switched on and off.

"We're waiting to find out what tier Shropshire is going to be in which has an impact on our hospitality sector, and they don't just what they're going to do.

"Pubs don't know because of the differences in tiers; only pubs that serve food might be allowed to open and some pubs don't know if they have to order beer in or not.

"Before the lockdown, Shropshire was in Tier 1 but I think this time, it might be in Tier 2 which means some of our pubs won't be able to open.

"The hospitality sector will find it difficult to adjust."