Beccles hole causes impact on trade

TRADERS in Beccles have spoken of their anger over a town road closure which is having a “horrendous” impact on businesses.

The top of Blyburgate has been closed to traffic since the end of September when a large hole appeared outside Pennington Opticians after the pavement collapsed into the building’s cellar.

Last week, Waveney District Council moved to boost trade by suspending parking charges in Blyburgate until the end of this month.

Businesses yesterday spoke of their concerns that the closure could remain in place during the busy Christmas shopping period. It is understood the delay has been caused by insurance-related issues.

Nigel Sawyer, who owns Fresh and Silk Flowers on Blyburgate, estimated that local businesses had lost a quarter of a million pounds in turnover as a result of the problems.

Michael Beck, who owns Fresh and Fruity greengrocers on Blyburgate, said: “The impact has been horrendous. Walk-through trade has dramatically dropped and trade on a Sunday is barely half of what it should be. We have never had a situation like this before. It has affected us from day one.”

Richard Godfrey, a partner of Twyfords in Exchange Square, said: “It is costing the town its reputation and traders money every day that goes on. We are in difficult recessionary times with the VAT rise and downturn in trade come January. This is the last thing we need in the busy period in the run up to Christmas.”

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Graham Smith, proprietor of The Car Shop on Blyburgate, said: “It has definitely affected trade. I think it has affected the whole town. Customers are complaining that it is ridiculous and asking why is it taking so long. I do think it should be sorted out now.”

Waveney district councillor for Beccles north Chris Punt said more help is likely. “I managed to obtain free parking for Blyburgate for November and I am confident of free parking for the duration of the closure,” he said.

“I would like to emphasise there is nothing stopping anybody doing their shopping in Blyburgate. People can park in Blyburgate car park and walk to the shops. There is full access.”

He said traders who had been affected may be able to make an insurance claim for loss of earnings.

Mr Punt also urged businesses on Hungate, where traffic is currently being diverted, to be patient.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “Suffolk County Council has been in regular contact with all parties and continues to press for a resolution at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, the width of the closure has been widened to allow greater pedestrian and cycle access and additional signage has been provided.”