The leader of Harrow Council defended the decision to maintain barriers along shopping parades to encourage social distancing, despite criticism from shopkeepers and opposition councillors.

Cllr Graham Henson said he “supported” the call made by his deputy, Cllr Keith Ferry, to override a recommendation made by the council’s traffic and road safety advisory panel to have them removed.

At a council cabinet meeting last night, Conservative councillor Anjana Patel, who represents Belmont ward, explained she had spoken to shop owners in Queensbury who said their businesses were suffering as a direct result of the new measures.

She questioned how Cllr Ferry could be a “better judge” of the situation than those who are experiencing issues on a daily basis.

However, Cllr Henson said he was fully supportive of the council’s decision for “a number of valid reasons”.

He said: “These are temporary measures that may cause some inconvenience for drivers but will, quite rightly, address the ongoing health crisis and ensure the health and wellbeing of the local community.

“The measures should give customers and staff more confidence to visit these shops with more space to get around safely and support trade for local businesses.”

He noted that evidence suggests there will be an “increase in trade” if people feel they can visit shops with extra safety measures in place.

“It’s not like we’ve stopped all parking in Queensbury – this just allows people to use the pavements safely,” he said.

He added that all these measures have been put onto local authorities based on guidelines put forward by central government.