A RAPID Covid testing site and a reduction in parking spaces is having a “disastrous” impact on businesses in Leigh, traders say.

Parking spots have always been hard to come by but eight spaces in Broadway West are shut off outside a butchers, bakers, and greengrocers, causing more pressure.

The Covid testing site has also been in place for several months, taking up most of the car park off Elm Road, it is claimed.

Council bosses insist the car park is open for drivers and also reassured businesses the measures to shut off the eight spaces are only temporary.

Jill Riches, owner of the Little Card Shop on the Corner in the town, said: “Leigh is an area of parking stress. The combination of the large yellow sign and the view of the testing centre gives the impression that the entire car park is out of use.

“The impact on trade has been nothing short of disastrous. All the shops in the vicinity report low footfall.”

The parking spaces outside the Pot Herbs greengrocers, Home Made Bakery, and T Harrison Butchers, have been closed since April 12. They were closed to allow shoppers to keep apart while queuing.

Ron Woodley, deputy leader of Southend Council, urged businesses to contact councillors and the highways team if they are concerned.

He said: “We have to consider if closing the spaces is necessary. More and more people are being vaccinated and the cases are still low.”

The testing site next to Leigh Community Centre, Elm Road, Leigh, is open from 9am to 6.30pm, and offers kits to take home.

Ms Riches added: “For public safety part of the parking area in Broadway West has been cordoned off to allow customers to queue safely for the butcher, baker and greengrocer.

“This is very sensible and I am sure residents and businesses alike will support this safety measures.”

Krishma Ramkhelawon, director of public health at Southend Council said: “Although rates are currently low, it is important to remember that Covid is still with us, and along with vaccination and public health measures, both polymerase chain reaction and rapid testing is vital to ensure we can continue to keep rates low, deal with any outbreaks and continue to ease lockdown as part of the national roadmap.”