Asda’s shut door policy ‘restricts access for elderly’ in Hatfield

Asda's doors in Hatfield have been shut since April. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

Asda's doors in Hatfield have been shut since April. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin - Credit: Archant

Hatfield’s elderly and traders have complained that the closure of Asda’s doors – which back onto the town centre – has restricted access to shops.

Asda's doors in Hatfield have been shut since April. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

Asda's doors in Hatfield have been shut since April. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin - Credit: Archant

The walk from the superstore – which attracts a lot of custom to Hatfield town centre – to the new entrance can take a long time and could make some people less willing to make the journey when Asda already has a McDonald’s and a pharmacy.

Patricia Bailey, who has been part of the town women’s guild since 1968, has said its “such a shame” that she and her friends cannot use the town centre anymore. The 83-year-old said she has not returned – along with many of those in the guild – since the coronavirus pandemic began and is upset that it is now a “nightmare” for her to navigate.

“Everywhere is a good walk and some of us are not mobile,” Patricia said. “COVID-19 has made such a difference to our lives. We would often go for a coffee in White Lion Square or [to a social club].”

While she has been able to set outside friends’ houses while the weather was good, with the winter coming on she thinks it will no longer be safe for her to go out.

Sharon in Barnados. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

Sharon in Barnados. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin - Credit: Archant

Her friend Elizabeth Wells agrees and feels it has significantly affected the elderly, especially those who use the buses to do their weekly shop.

Many elderly people, including a woman who needs a mobility walker, now have to take separate trips into Hatfield.

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They can either take a bus to Cavendish Way to go to Asda or then use a different bus route to go to the town and market, but are often unable to walk to both.

“You just can’t do both,” Elizabeth, 74, said. “I park at the Boots end to shop in the town centre, as my walking is limited, and then move my car to shop in Asda, but now I go to London Colney to the Sainsbury’s instead.

Mandy from the Hatfield traders association. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

Mandy from the Hatfield traders association. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin - Credit: Archant

“It’s this whole mentality if I’m okay then others don’t matter but people in my age group are finding it hard.”

However she thinks if more shops are lost and there were no weekly coffees with the other women on Wednesdays, then she would not go to Hatfield at all as her bank, NatWest, is in WGC along with John Lewis and the Howard Centre.

Mandy, from the recently formed Hatfield Town Centre traders association, said that this has shut off Hatfield traders from those who shop at Asda.

She said: “The market is already struggling and faced with the doors being closed at Asda that is further ostracising the town centre.

Sharon from Barnados has felt that with the market stalls facing another way and the loss of Asda traffic, the charity shop has seen a further decline post-COVID-19 – which may have contributed to the charity’s decision to close the store in February.

A spokeswoman for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has said: “We’ve made many attempts to speak with Asda – recognising the impact of closing these doors on older people, those with mobility issues and town centre businesses – and it’s disappointing not to receive a reply.

“We share the concerns of Hatfield Town Centre Traders Association and will be setting these out formally in a letter to the store manager from the council.

“In these tumultuous times, it’s more important than ever that the town centre business community comes together to support each other. We will keep everyone updated with the response.”

However Hatfield Asda has argued that public health measures – which means the right of way agreement does not need enforcing – have been introduced to make sure the store is COVID-19 compliant.

A spokesman added: “This entrance/exit has been closed to customers since April this year so that we can more easily maintain safe customer limits inside the store and also to ensure the one-way system inside the store to be able to ensure the safety of both our customers and our colleagues.

“We have not received any complaints about this but we are sorry for any inconvenience although we are sure that the vast majority of our customers understand all of the current COVID measures in place at the Hatfield store.”

A Barnardo’s spokesperson said: “We can confirm that our charity store in Hatfield will cease trading at the end of its current lease in February 2021. We would like to thank our customers and donors for their kind support over these last few years.”

The WHT is running a series on the problems facing traders in the town centre and has already tackled ASB and parking.