A STORE owner is furious over being told to close by council authorities.

Ron Beadle, who runs R&S Fireplaces and Stoves, Crook, has been told to close his showroom by Durham County Council.

He was told the show room is non-essential however, he can still operate a click and collect and install heaters.

Mr Beadle argues that his store is essential, as providing a source of heat is essential, especially in winter.

Mr Beadle said: “I feel whilst I appreciate that the Durham County Council Covid protection team have a job to do and a most difficult one in the current climate as it is, they need to appreciate that here at R&S Fireplaces & Stoves we are an essential service provider of heating to the whole community.

“We cover a vast area including Barnard Castle, Teesdale and Weardale areas over into west Stanley, and sometimes further afield, to where solid fuel, wood and LPG and oil appliances are in use mainly.

“Even more so given a vast number of customers are of a particular age group and certainly cannot be left without access to essential primary and also in some cases secondary heating, which is why viewing for their specific needs is essential in the showroom thereby showing a range of live burning displays and ease of use of appliances.”

Store owners stress that all precautions have been adhered to, with masks, two metre distancing and sanitisation stations on entry.

The shop also operates under an appointment system with pre-booked one hour appointments.

With a no touch policy and all visits recorded on file, allowing 30 minutes sanitising between appointments.

“The safety of all our customers and employees is and always shall be paramount during this pandemic.

“We are essential, even more so during these current weather conditions, as a business we are here to assist also on an emergency basis to service or repair appliances in their homes under HETAS guidelines, as required to ensure all customers and especially the elderly and vulnerable have heat in their homes.”

Joanne Waller, head of community protection services at Durham County Council, said: “This type of shop is not permitted to open to members of the public or trade by virtue of the latest coronavirus regulations.

“The only discretion allowed is that the shop can operate on a click and collect basis.

“Local authorities have no further discretion in this matter.”

Mr Beadle said: “I'm astounded that essential heating supplies isn't covered by virtue, when similar items are still available in other places openly trading to both public and trade and selling many non-essential items.”