Over 100 social media users criticised Greenwich Council last night after it announced it had fined The Mirror Shop on Woolwich Road for “obstructing the highway” with its merchandise.
The shop has become a local landmark over the past three decades for its colourful displays outside the store on the east Greenwich/Charlton border, brightening up the bleak and dangerous Angerstein roundabout, where two cyclists have been killed in the past 11 years.
While little has been done to improve safety at the roundabout, council officers targeted the shop’s owner, Clive Berry, for displaying the items, which include mirrors, superhero figurines and animal sculptures.
A press release issued by the council on Monday stated that Berry had been ordered to pay a total of £872 in fines and legal costs. It did not name the court or say when the conviction took place. It quoted Jackie Smith, the cabinet member for community safety, as saying: “The council has a legal duty to maintain the safety and usability of highways in the borough. By obstructing the pavement and chaining his merchandise to the railings, Mr Clive Berry was endangering pedestrians and moving traffic.
“Though we tried to engage with Mr Berry to get him to stop blocking the highway with his goods, he refused. I hope this prosecution serves as a reminder that no one is above the law in Royal Greenwich [sic] and the council will not hesitate to prosecute those who break the rules.”
A photo supplied by the council shows model dogs on the central reservation, with figures attached to wheelie bins that are tied to railings.
But the press release appears to have backfired on the council, with users of Twitter and Facebook responding to question why it pursued The Mirror Shop when the public realm around the roundabout remains dangerous and dilapidated.
One Twitter user, Stacey Ayeh, wrote: “This is a unnecessary waste of time. That Shop should be promoted by the council for bringing joy to the otherwise nondescript road. Also rather misleading to claim they ‘obstruct the highway’.”
Mark Johnson-Brown, the manager of the nearby Mycenae House community centre, wrote: “This leaves me feeling rather deflated. Always liked its quirkiness and one of the things I valued about living locally. think Ill go and buy a mirror from them.”
Another commenter said: “The irony of the [council] prosecuting this shop when how many have been killed at the roundabout is maddening. Goodness me. Fuck all has been done about a deathtrap, but the mirror man is fair game. Joke.”
And Annie Keys, a former Greenwich Labour councillor, said the council’s actions were “probably not something to gloat about”.
The backlash was no less vicious on Facebook, where nearly 100 people had responded by the small hours of this morning. Jennifer McCullough wrote: “My goodness. What complete rot. Nothing has ever been blocked. I’m so pleased that Greenwich Council feels so proud of itself that it resorts to puffing its chest so publicly. I’m sure there’s a homeless person or two you can pick on next. Another easy victim. Grow up and start looking for people who commit genuine crimes.”
Sam Stedman commented: “Absolute joke! This shop has been there forever! The road it’s on is vile and dirty and this shop brightens it up. We always smile going past. I remember pointing the different ornaments out to my parents on the way past now my children do too. Spend your time doing jobs that actually NEED doing! Ridiculous! Think hundreds of us need to start writing in complaining about every fault we see on the roads and health and serious safety issues you ignore from now on. This is not health and safety they never block anything. It’s a small business in our community that a lot of us treasure.”
Others said that Berry had apparently been able to trade unhindered for many years – and said that the council should be concentrating on people who park on pavements and in cycle lanes.
Greenwich Council has been asked for a response. The Charlton Champion will update this story when one arrives.
Thursday update: The council has declined to comment directly on the response to its press release.
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