Retailers are calling for better communication between utilities companies and councils when it comes to planning roadworks and diversions than can hamper footfall and trade.
According to breakdown service LV= Road Rescue there are currently 25,000 incomplete roadworks on British roads.
Ken Parsons, chief executive of the Rural Shops Alliance, highlighted the harm that poorly managed roadworks can inflict on store trade. “There is little worse than roadworks outside a shop to keep customers away. For small independent businesses, without deep financial reserves to see them through, it can be a disaster that leads to losses and permanent closure,” he said.
Just last month some businesses in Hexham, Northumberland, reported a 95% drop in trade after Northumberland County Council closed Dilston Bridge for structural repairs, at the same time as the town’s streets were dug up for gas pipe work.
Hiral Patel of Londis Claygate in Surrey sympathised. “The stretch of road opposite was repeatedly dug up by different utilities companies last year, not only did it affect footfall but the noise was also a real distraction.”
Further water main repairs are due to start on Hiral’s road again this week.
“There are so many different sets of rules for the different organisations that dig up roads and the current high level of such activity shows the need for legislation to simplify the complicated situation and to make it fairer,” Parsons added.
“The survival of an independent shop should not depend on whether the road is being dug up by the local council, an electricity company or a gas provider; the effect on the business is exactly the same whoever is wielding the pickaxe.”
Suffolk County Council has the most outstanding road maintenance projects at 1,906, followed by Leicestershire County Council at 1,250.
Raj Aggarwal of Londis store Wigston, Leicestershire also called for more joined-up thinking and greater understanding of the impact that roadworks can have on trade.
“Not long ago Road Closure signs were put up on our street but none of the workmen showed up. The diversion was in place for the best part of a day and we lost trade but for no reason at all. When we called the council to complain we were just told it was a mistake,” he said.