Work on flats is costing us trade, say shopkeepers
TRADERS in Westbury Park say they are losing business and are concerned about the safety of their customers after part of their road was closed and temporary traffic lights installed.
Half the road has been closed off to allow hoardings to be built out surrounding a building site in North View, where a block of flats is being built by developers Simon James New Homes.
To keep traffic flowing along the road, which links Linden Road and Westbury Road, a set of two-way temporary traffic lights was put in place about a month ago.
But some local businesses have raised concerns after noticing a drop in customers – and are blaming the decrease on the temporary traffic measures.
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They say a large number of on-street parking spaces have been lost to allow traffic to pass through, and crossing the road has become more dangerous for the people visiting their shops.
Some are also concerned about their health as a result of the fumes when queues of cars sit idling at the traffic lights as they wait to pass through.
Most are angry that they were not informed by the council about what was going to happen, and are worried about how long the work will go on for. They say they have been told the hoardings could be up for anywhere between six and 18 months.
Driving the local traders' campaign to ensure that things return to normal as soon as possible are Julie Brooks, who owns the children's clothes shop Roundabout, and her husband Graeme Robbins.
They say they have no problem with the development itself, but are worried that the shop – which has been open for ten years – could be forced to close if the situation does not improve.
Miss Brooks, 49, said: "I am used to 100 people coming in each week, bringing in things that I can sell. I have been getting half of that since the traffic lights went up.
"People can no longer park outside the shop and drop things off, which is a real problem when it comes to heavier items like cots. If this goes on my stock will dwindle, and I'm really worried that we won't be able to stay open."
The couple live above the shop with their teenage daughter, and have installed secondary glazing to try and stop the fumes entering their home from the increased number of stationary cars outside.
Some of the other shops along the road have not had an issue with the extra traffic or reduced parking, but are frustrated by the lack of consultation or information from the council.
At Homevac Electrics, father and son team John and Peter Guilfoyle, 76 and 47, are most concerned about safety for pedestrians crossing the road.
Their shop front looks out over a zebra crossing, which they say was not always the safest before the hoardings and lights went in, but are now much worse.
They say traffic is stopping on the crossing while people wait at the lights, and then traffic driving through in the other direction does not stop for pedestrians trying to cross.
"It's an accident waiting to happen," said John. "We have seen so many near misses in the last couple of weeks.
"It is 500 per cent worse than it was before, people are risking life and limb crossing there because the cars aren't stopping."
At Gales' Butchers, Robert Hamlin said he thought the lack of parking had hit their trade.
"Luckily January isn't that busy anyway, so we expect it to be a bit quiet," said Mr Hamlin, 60. "But the test will be as time goes on."
He said that the angle traffic had to drive at to pass the hoardings just outside the shop meant that buses had hit and damaged the butchers' awnings twice in the last few weeks.
Sue Lodge, 66, who owns the ceramics shop Fish with Feet, said her main concern was how long the work was going to continue.
"We are not trading as well as we should be," she said. "It is much harder to park and I know fewer people are visiting the pharmacy across the road because they are not able to park where they used to.
"I am worried about how long it will take. If it goes on all year then it will affect our Christmas trade – and we all rely on that."
City council spokeswoman Kate Hartas said: "The council is very keen to help traders all it can during the works affecting the highway, which are to be carried out within the maximum permitted period of six months from the start date – certainly no more. Temporary traffic lights cost developers a lot of money, and they do tend to get a move on when they are using them, so the council isn't expecting the works to last even as long as that.
"The developer is responsible for ensuring its contractors inform local residents and businesses and strike up an early dialogue.
"Though they have no legal duty, the council does strongly encourage this and it is disappointing when it doesn't occur satisfactorily. This should have happened and didn't.
"Police colleagues have been alerted to the issues relating to some dangerous driving on the footway and around the crossings. The council has been trying to mitigate as far as possible within its own remit. Officers have tried to retain as many parking spaces as possible near the shops. There is also parking in side streets. Other mitigation measures are to be discussed with the developers including 'switch off when idling' signs to try to minimise pollution.
"The council appreciates how difficult new development can be for traders in its construction phase. We are confident that new residential development does increase the long-term potential for trade when it is complete, and we are very grateful for the continued constructive dialogue with traders as we try to mitigate the traffic issues."
The developer, Simon James New Homes, was unavailable to comment.