Improvement work is ‘killing’ town trade

Traders who are angy about the roadworks on Oakham High Street. By Lee Hellwing.
Traders who are angy about the roadworks on Oakham High Street. By Lee Hellwing.
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Oakham High Street traders are demanding that work to improve electricity supplies in the town is speeded up because they claim the work is “killing” their businesses.

Work on the £400,000 electricity project began in February and as a result a one-way traffic system along the High Street and Market Place was introduced in March.

Due to roadworks, there is no parking on the High Street and temporary parking has been installed to the north side of it. There is also diversions in place in the town centre.

But numerous business owners say they have been crippled by a loss in trade as a result of work by Western Power Distribution, which is replacing cables in the Market Place, and on the High Street - and they are frustrated that the one-way system and roadworks are still in place despite traders receiving a letter from the firm saying the one-way system would be lifted by April 21.

Traders claim that shoppers have been staying away from the town centre as they have been put off by the work,

John Cook, manager of Nelsons Butchers in the High Street, said: “It is absolutely killing us. Turnover is way down. Some people say they are 50 per cent down [in trade]. It is not being done quickly enough.

Mr Cook, 63, added that his message is: “Get it done and get out because we cannot stand this much 
longer.”

Liz Leaper, owner of flower shop, Pollen, said: “I do not agree with the one-way 
system - it is not needed in this town - it is not busy enough here.”

Liz, 53, urged Western Power Distribution to ‘get the work done faster’.

Charan Singh, 24, manager of Boots Pharmacy, said: “Overall trade has been quieter on the High Street in the past few weeks - often people will just park on the High Street and pop-in and grab something but now they have to think about it and that is having an affect on us.”

The owners of Tails and Whiskers pet shop and Day Lewis Pharmacy have echoed their concerns.

The diversion in the town centre is via Burley Road, Burley Park Way, Lands’ End Way and Barleythorpe Road.

Work by Western Power Distribution involves the reinforcement and renewal of around 8km of electricity cables in the town centre, the Market Place, High Street and Westgate.

A new substation is also being installed at Oakham Castle to further improve supply reliability to nearly 800 properties in the town centre.

In a statement, Western Power Distribution said: “We continue to work in accordance with requests from Rutland County Council and have been in regular contact with local businesses to address their queries.

“At times where we haven’t been working we have opened our barriers to allow deliveries to the local shops.

“Much of our work has now been completed. We’re now working on the north side of the High Street, laying a new mains cable.

“We remain on track to complete our work by the target date of June 7.”

Western Power Distribution advised residents and businesses in April that the one-way system needed to be extended until May but this will be lifted “shortly”.

Rutland County Council is coordinating the work and the council’s director for environment, planning and transport Dave Brown said Western Power Distribution, and Severn Trent Water, which is also carrying out work in the town, had reassured the council “the work in Oakham is being completed as quickly as possible, while taking care to minimise any inconvenience for residents and businesses.”

He added that the council has introduced free one-hour parking in Church Street to mitigate the loss of car parking in the High Street while the work is being carried out.

In Oakham, Severn Trent Water is also installing three km of water pipes to give residents a reliable water supply and better quality of water.

This is due to be finished by the end of the year and work has already been completed in Station Road and Station Approach and the firm is currently working in Northgate with plans to move into High Street in the Autumn.

Mr Holder said the company has been working closely with businesses and local people to minimise disruption during the project, and has “done everything it can” to keep everyone updated.

He added “On the back of these concerns our advisors will be out in Oakham next week to speak to local business owners to see what else we can do to help them. They’ll be talking to businesses about the possibility of compensation, provided they can prove a loss of profits as a result of our work.”