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Investor calls on car dealers to mount legal challenge to lockdown closures to avoid future interruptions

Time 11 months ago

Car dealer bosses should challenge the national lockdown with a legal battle to ensure they can reopen during future tough restrictions.

That’s the belief of motor trade investor Bruce Beaton who has been lobbying car dealer bosses and the motor trade hard to fight for their right to open.

Car dealers have been forced to shut their doors during the second lockdown and operate online via click and collect and home delivery, while garden centres and DIY stores have been allowed to open as normal.

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Beaton said: ‘At the moment the UK is in various states of flux including lockdown two in England. 

‘We face the possibility of future lockdowns and business interruption and my feeling is that the industry should ask in a court why Covid Secure showrooms have become unsafe. 

‘There is specific Covid-19 legislation and I believe that Public Health England must demonstrate that the premises closed produce a threat to public health even though they were approved as Covid safe previously.’

Beaton said the blanket closure of non-essential retail under the second lockdown in England appear to have be made ‘without published scientific data’.


And he believes car dealers should collaborate to challenge the decision in court.

He said: ‘I think it is essential that we obtain a ruling on why showrooms now present a danger and what scientific data sets the threshold for closure otherwise they face a series of unplanned closures. 

‘A good legal team could take instruction on this and at least advise then challenge. 

‘If an Edinburgh cafe can go to Court of Session and overturn the act then as a body the automotive industry owes it to staff, suppliers and share holders to at least challenge now before the next disruption.

‘I previously overturned a restrictive planning covenant, but unless you try you are already defeated.’

Car dealerships look set to reopen on December 2 as the country re-enters a tiered approach to restrictions with toughened measures likely.

The prime minister is to announce his plans this afternoon with a decision on which areas of the country enter which tiers to be made on Thursday.

Beaton insists the legal challenge is still important, though, to avoid threats of future interruption.


He added: ‘If they are forced to close again, but have not taken action to mitigate, who is at fault?’

The SMMT said on Friday that it was lobbying hard at government level to prove car dealerships are safe and need to reopen as soon as possible.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘While we understand the need to stem the virus’ spread, given that car showrooms are now proven to be Covid Secure, we need them to re-open quickly, and stay open.

‘We have made this clear in discussions at the highest levels of government as it will protect vital jobs in both sales and production at this particularly critical time for the sector.’

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Martin Forbes, president of Cox Automotive International, also believes the industry needs to form a united front now to ensure dealers are allowed to stay open.

He told Car Dealer last week, that the government needs to listen to car industry leaders now on how dealerships are safe and he believes they should ‘absolutely’ be excluded from a ban on non essential retail opening.

He added: ‘My personal opinion is without a doubt dealers should be open. I feel passionate about that.’

 

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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