‘Chaos’ fear for A35 businesses

PUBLISHED: 11:50 28 May 2012

Business owners David Preston, Sam Baker and David and Katharine Murray.

Business owners David Preston, Sam Baker and David and Katharine Murray.

Archant

Traders raise concerns over A35 road closures.

Traders say road closures on the A35 will ‘seriously impact’ on their businesses and leave them out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of pounds in lost revenue.

The 36-hour closure between Honiton and Axminster is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 27, from 8pm, and will continue until 6am on Tuesday, May 29.

Sam Baker, the landlord of the White Hart Inn, in Wilmington, said: “The road closure is going to cause chaos. I have had to turn down three advance bookings and two large restaurant bookings.”

The closure had been due to take place last Monday (May 14) but was postponed because of the recent bad weather.

However, local businesses say they have already felt the affects and have seen a slump in trade.

Miss Baker, who started running the business last October, added: “This week alone – people have been convinced the road is closed – we are looking at a loss of upwards of £500 a day and we are losing out because of the loss of advance bookings for the restaurant and the bed and breakfast.

“It is an awful lot of money to lose when you have just opened.”

She told the Midweek Herald that she had made arrangements to accommodate the road closure – cancelling bookings and changing staffing rotas, but later received notification that the closure had been rescheduled just three days before the work was due to start.

Miss Baker said: “I know road works have got to be done – but why the whole road?”

Fellow business owners David and Katharine Murray, who run Sundial Garden in Offwell say they could be faced with ‘significant’ losses of between £500 and £600 as a result of the road closure.

Katharine Murray said: “We are all small businesses – the impact is huge.

“You struggle to keep going and work your socks off.

“This is just the last straw.”

David Preston, the managing director of Feast Devon Ltd, who runs Kilmington Café Bistro Motel, added: “Why was there no consultation with anybody? Why are they doing it now, at this time of year when they could have done it at anytime?

“It is going to cost me as one individual, in loss of turnover, £1500 for that one day.

“Why should they cost all the rest of us so much money?”

He added: “I do think we should be compensated or at least be able to claim something.”

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “The work on the A35 between Honiton and Axminster will improve the road surface and reduce the need for future closures for maintenance. The work has been carefully planned to cause as little disruption as possible. We considered options and decided a full closure for a short period was the best solution for road users and businesses.

“The 36 hour closure is needed to undertake work that is weather and moisure susceptible and therefore must be carried out during daylight hours. The alternative would involve a larger number of overnight closures with added inconvenience to road users and the local community.

“During the closure our contractor will also carry out other jobs which should reduce the need for further traffic management on this section of the A35 for the remaining year.

“We have kept the local community informed about our plans for our work, and earlier in the year invited all interested parties to a public meeting in Axminster. We have always said the work is subject to good weather and unfortunately, the accurately forecast heavy rain on the night of 14-15 May meant we had to postpone the closure. Letters were delivered informing businesses and residents affected on 11 May. Local media and travel news bulletins were also informed.

“We would not expect to pay compensation to businesses. Although the closure will cause some inconvenience, alternative routes are available to access businesses along the road and clearly signed diversions will be in place.”


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