Legislation to clamp down on poorly managed roadworks and an urgent review of compensation schemes for retailers have been called for after a summer of traffic suspensions left many stores counting their losses.
In Claygate, Surrey, the road leading to Londis retailer Hiral Patel’s store has been dug up for the fifth time in under two years by a gas company. “It’s a nightmare and I’m powerless to stop it,” Hiral told Convenience Store. “At Christmas I lost more than 30% of my trade. The latest set of roadworks have slashed sales by 20%,” he added.
A compensation scheme for businesses affected by gas works does exist. However, the process is too time-consuming to be of use, Hiral said. “I need to show three years-worth of takings prior to the roadworks and the three months leading up to the works. It’s a lot of hassle, and it’s costly as I’d have to pay my accountant to do the work.”
There is currently no statutory requirement for compensation from electricity works, and although there is for water, policies vary from company to company.
Retailers in Selsdon, Greater London, were reeling after over-running roadworks hit trade. Asad Khan, owner of Smallworths c-store, said footfall had fallen by 80% after roadworks prevented parking. “We were told the works would last 28 weeks, but they passed that deadline again and again.”
The Association of Convenience Stores said it would continue to argue for proper consideration to be given to the impact of roadworks.
“Compensation schemes are far from adequate,” said public affairs director Shane Brennan.
Some progress was made in London in July, when a new ‘lane rental scheme’ was launched. It charges utility companies £2,500 a day for working in congested areas at busy times. It is hoped a similar scheme could be rolled out nationally.