A PLEA has been made to protect local businesses in Romsey.

This comes after ram-raiders smashed their way into the Premier store in Viney Avenue on Monday. The owner, Siddharth Patel, has been left counting the costs after thugs smashed their car into the front of the shop before fleeing empty-handed thanks to the intervention of local residents.

But now, the 45-year-old said bollards should be installed outside small shops in the market town and action should be taken to support small businesses which cannot afford private security guards.

This comes after police officers and private security guards were deployed across the town centre in December to deter shoplifters.

Other stores such as the Co-op in Winchester Hill were also broken into over the past few weeks.

Mr Patel said the community could also help, and praised neighbours Dudley McKenner and his wife Clare Smith-May who shouted at the ram-raiders and phoned the police.

Ms Smith-May said she was in bed when she heard a loud noise. She said she looked out the window and saw a car smashing into the front of the shop.

“I shouted; I never believed I could shout so loudly,” the 60-year-old gardener said.

She added: “I shouted ‘stop you are on camera’ and my husband came out of the front door and was shouting as well. They heard us because one man shouted back ‘be quiet’. They then just got back in the car and drove off,”she said.

Hampshire police confirmed a car was used to damage the shop and the vehicle had been recovered.

Mr Patel said: “They could have stayed a lot longer and tried to steal something if my neighbours were not awake. I’m very thankful to my neighbours. If more neighbours were like Clare, these incidents would stop.”

Mr Patel said although more police officers patrolling the street would help prevent crimes, he was aware of the shortage of officers due to the cuts.

But he said the local authorities could step in and help prevent crimes, by installing bollards outside shops to prevent ram raids.

“If they can do something as soon as possible it would be really appreciated,”he added.

Cllr Nick Adams-King, deputy council leader at Test Valley Borough Councils, said: “Policing is a huge issue. Romsey does not get its fair share of policing, but that is because comparatively we have less crime. That’s why it’s so important people report crime, no matter how minor, so that the true level of the problem is recorded and we receive the level of policing we need.”

He said the bollards are responsibility of Hampshire County Council. The authority was unable to provide a comment before the Advertiser went to press.