Southern Water will be asking shoppers in Andover to watch their step from this afternoon.
The water supply and sewerage company are currently digging up the High Street to reduce the risk of flooding and have issued an emergency notice to visitors to remove their shoes if they plan to use the town’s main shopping area.
The restriction will be in place for twelve weeks from today or until the preparatory work is complete, whichever is the earlier.
An area from the Blue Onion cafe in the Upper High Street to The Globe pub will be cordoned off with prominent signs advising people to either use alternative walkways or remove their footwear.
Southern Water are currently installing surface water drains, but it’s been uncovered that the work is leaving pavement stones at risk of sinking into the ground if stood on too heavily.
A Southern Water spokesperson said, “Whereas we appreciate that this may cause some slight inconvenience for a while, we need to protect the integrity of the ground and will protect the area with security personnel, 24 hour CCTV and guard dogs to ensure compliance and ease of prosecution.
“A maximum £5,000 fine or 6 months imprisonment will be imposed on people who flagrantly ignore the widely publicised restrictions.”
The water company adds that due to their combined weight mobility scooter users should avoid the area completely to prevent them from being swallowed whole by the softened ground.
Scooter users must use a new designated walkway area via the Chantry Centre and Leisure Centre or prepare to dismantle their scooter entirely before traversing the affected area.
Social media has exploded on the subject and a Facebook group has been set-up to protest against the restrictions. In a post, a customer at the popular Blue Onion cafe who didn’t want to be named, described the idea as “ludicrous”. She wrote, “This morning outside the cafe we have 56 pairs of shoes, twelve mobility scooters and three prosthetic legs”.
At the time of writing, town council officials were only able to comment, “We know nothing of this. It’s probably a borough council matter”.