Forest calls for help after getting caught in the middle
By Rob Freeman | 27th October 2020
The leader of Forest of Dean District Council has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for help as the area finds itself stuck between differing coronavirus restrictions in England and Wales.
Councillor Tim Gwilliam said the Forest has been hit by stricter 'firebreak' regulations introduced across the border in Wales, but has not been given the support available to Welsh businesses.
He wrote: "Our proximity to Wales on our westernmost border means we are directly affected by the decision of the Welsh Government to institute a 'firebreak'.
"The porousness of the border is, in normal times, a strength for us, allowing tourists and workers to cross the border and come into the Forest each day from Wales.
"This is especially important for our daytime visitor economy."
The firebreak has been introduced until November 9 with the possibility of ongoing restrictions after that date.
Mr Gwilliam said tourism brings in £137million to the Forest economy and employs around 8,000 people.
He continued: "The fear of many in the Forest is that we will find ourselves betwixt and between UK-wide and Welsh-only decision making and a prolonged downturn for our tourism industry, with all the effects this will have on employment, prosperity and the wider economy.
"We are directly affected by the Welsh lockdown but, clearly, our businesses do not qualify for the Welsh Government's Economic Resilience Fund payments, designed to support local economies dealing with the firebreak impacts.
"I would urge you to help us find a way through and design a bespoke package of support for areas like ours, that are normally engines of economic growth but which are unable to operate in the normal way."
Earlier this month, Mr Gwilliam said visitors remained welcome in the Forest, but urged people from areas with high rates of coronavirus cases to stay away.
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