A Londis retailer in Essex is seeking compensation from the National Grid over major gas works which he estimates will cost him nearly £15,000 in lost sales and has forced him to invest in marketing material to stem the decline in footfall.

Robert Byford, who owns Byfords Food Hall in Leigh-on-Sea, has spoken out in support of C-Store’s Works Must Pay campaign as he battles to keep his business afloat amidst major gas works.

“Works Must Pay definitely gets my full backing,” he said of the campaign, which is calling for compensation to businesses which lose out on trade due to the impact of roadworks. “You have to make a bit of a fuss to get people’s attention.”

National Grid is replacing a gas main less than 100 yards from Byfords and Robert is fighting hard to get compensation for lost business over the 18-week project. “It puts customers off coming in,” he said, noting that business is down 10% as a result. “I’ve put in a form to National Grid claiming just under £5,000. By the time the works are done, they’ll owe another £10,000.”

Robert claimed that he had been stung by the same company several years ago. “The last time they set up roadworks outside the store they promised that they’d compensate us, but then changed their minds. It was scheduled to take six months, but took nine. It was a nightmare. It cost us £30,000.”

This time round, it was not only the roadworks themselves, but miscommunication from National Grid which was damaging business, said Robert. He claimed that the firm had put up road signs and made radio announcements claiming that a secondary road nearby was closed when it wasn’t, meaning that locals would wrongly assume the store was inaccessible.

Robert has been forced to invest in marketing material to stop footfall decreasing further. “I’ve spent 40-50 hours trying to limit the damage and make sure we get compensation - I’ve booked half-pages in the local papers to explain that we are still open and had signs made up directing customers to the store,” he said. “We’ve also printed 5,000 leaflets explaining the situation and telling people that we are open, and we’ve given out hundreds of maps to customers.”

He claimed that the gas works would have “crucified business” had he not taken these additional measures. “We’d have lost 25% of our business. The garage nearby hasn’t taken any action and business is down 50%.”

Robert has been in talks with his local MP David Amess, whom he said was supportive of the store.

Ten MPs have so far signed an Early Day Motion ‘Roadworks Justice for Local Businesses’, which was inspired by the campaign. A number of those MPs have told C-Store they would raise the issue individually in Parliament.

Tell us your experience: Email robin.mannering@wrbm.com