Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Traders upset after high street shuts for four days

WATLINGTON Parish Council is to complain after gas supply work shut the town’s high street for four days.

Members say businesses reported a “severe” loss of trade during work to connect a resident in the street at the start of the month.

They also say the signage was both poor and wrong as it sent traffic along Love Lane and the narrow Chapel Street while contractors from SGN spent a lot of time sitting in their van with no work being carried out.

Councillor Steph Van de Pette said the work was “badly handled” and that the Watlington Business Association was unhappy.

Speaking at a council meeting last week, she said: “The planning, the scheduling, the signage and the consultation — it was just a shambles.”

Councillor Terry Jackson said: “The signage was so poor — it was sending tankers down Love Lane and down Chapel Street.”

Councillor Tom Bindoff said the council should  complain to both the company and to Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, as it gave permission for the road closure and there should have been a deadline set for the work to be completed.

He added: “It wasn’t more than a day’s work by any stretch of the
imagination.”

But vice-chairman Ian Hill said: “I think it’s quite reasonable they have more time than they need because if they hit a problem halfway through and they can’t keep the road closed what do they do?

“I think we need to chase the county to give us more notice. From our own point of view, we need to go through their proposed signage in much more detail.”

Amanda Hinton, who runs cookware shop K is for Kitchen, estimated that her trade had dropped by 50 per cent during the closure. She claimed the road was closed for a day beyond the date stated on the road closure signs.

Mrs Hinton said: “The day after it was meant to be open again people were coming into my shop or phoning up to say, ‘why is the road still closed?’

“We have got really good, loyal customers here and Watlington high street is just magical — there aren’t many little high streets with so many shops on.”

Robin Holmes-Smith, who runs The Granary café, said: “It was just very quiet.

“We rely on people driving past and saying ‘oh look, there’s a shop, there’s a café’. It does make a difference if people can’t drive.”

He said he understood the work needed to be done but he had seen workmen waiting around apparently with nothing to do.

“It could have been done certainly in two days,” he said.

Tom Calnan, who runs Calnan Brothers butchers, said: “Footfall was definitely down. It’s not going to put you out of business but it wasn’t ideal. A road closure isn’t the best scenario but if it has got to be done, it has got to be done. It just needs a bit more communication.”

Mr Calnan claimed the work was supposed to take a day or two but overran. “We have deliveries here and if the road’s shut it’s not ideal,” he added.

A spokeswoman for SGN said: “Our work in High Street, Watlington, was planned in close consultation with the local authority.

“The road was planned to be closed from Monday, November 5 to Friday, November 9.

“Advanced warning signage was in place two weeks prior to our work starting and access for businesses was maintained at all times.

“We completed our work on Wednesday, November 6 and the road surface was reinstated on the Thursday.

“After allowing time for the new road surface to harden, the road was fully re-opened to traffic on the Friday morning.”

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