WORRIED shopkeepers who claim they were left in the dark about a bomb scare at a Widnes business site are to demand better warning measures for the future.
Traders and residents on Queens Avenue, opposite the Reality (GUS) centre, claim members of the public including youngsters were still in the street when hundreds of evacuated staff filed out of the building and allegedly took cover in Lodge Street behind the shops to protect themselves from a possible bomb blast.
The angry locals claim their confusion grew as the minutes went by, with shopkeepers unsure whether to pull down their shutters for protection.
A shop worker told the Weekly News how they finally found out what was going on just minutes before Reality staff were let back in the building.
This week the traders have written a letter to Cheshire Constabulary spelling out their grievances and urging police to provide them with the earliest possible warning in the event of another bomb alert.
Householders and business owners have agreed to sign the letters and send them to the police.
The letter states: 'The GUS staff assembled at the normal fire points at the front of their premises but were then told because it was a bomb alert, more serious than first thought, all the staff were told to go to the rear of the Queens Avenue shops, into Lodge Road, for their safety. This meant we were in the front line if there was an explosion.'
It adds: 'In future would you kindly inform us and the nearby residents of any bomb scare relating to GUS so that we and the residents can take the necessary steps to try to protect ourselves and our properties instead of being a shield for the GUS (Reality) staff.'
Carol Jones, an assistant working at Johns hardware and fancy goods shop on Queens Avenue, was one of witnesses to the incident, which happened on Monday, August 13.
She said: 'The building was evacuated. Staff came out but we thought it was a fire drill. We heard that all the GUS employees had to go into Lodge Lane behind the shops for their own protection. We asked them what was happening and one of their staff said there had been a bomb scare.
'Vehicles were turned away and after about 10-15 minutes the police arrived.
'The switchboard received the bombscare at 1pm but we didn't know what was going on. It was 1.25pm when we finally heard.
'We asked what we should do, for example pull the shutters down, but no-one told us.
'One woman customer who had been in the Warrington bombing was absolutely hysterical.
'There were people in the street and kids running around. There was no bomb in the event but what if there had been?'
A Cheshire police spokeswoman said: 'The GUS building was evacuated as a precautionary measure and a search was carried out but nothing was found. The whole incident was closed by about 2.50pm.'
Reality did not wish to comment.