Businesses criticise gas work’s signage

Wickham Market High Street

Wickham Market High Street - Credit: Archant

Businesses in an east Suffolk village faced with gas work disruptions say more should have been done to minimise the impact on their livelihoods.

Wickham Market’s High Street reopened on Saturday after a fortnight’s closure while National Grid engineers performed essential works to connect a new housing scheme with the mains.

Assurances were made that “every effort” would be taken to minimise disruption during the works, which will continue for a further three weeks, though with no more road closures.

Shopkeepers and community leaders, however, have questioned whether enough was done.

Postmistress Caron Kirk, while acknowledging the works were necessary, has criticised the diversion signposts placed on the edge of the village, which she claims gave the impression the whole of Wickham Market was inaccessible and may have deterred visitors.

She also suggested the engineers could have worked longer hours, highlighting several occasions when they appeared to have left early in the afternoon.

“We are desperate to get people back in the village and yet they don’t even turn up for more than a few hours,” she said. “The stress it’s causing is terrible. It’s a horrible feeling going to bed each night worrying and thinking about the money you are losing every day.”

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The Co-operative supermarket also said it had been affected. “As one of the larger businesses in town we are more resilient to such disruption, but we are disappointed with the poor communication from National Grid,” a spokesman said.

“Before work started we had a number of productive conversations with them about additional signage and communication to local residents, which unfortunately have not come to anything.”

Wickham Market’s district councillor Bryan Hall also said it had been a “very difficult fortnight for the village” and agreed the signage had been “deficient”. He added that many motorists had been taking back roads through the village, resulting in verges being “chewed up”.

A National Grid spokesman said the engineers had been able to reopen the road closure a day early and were currently slightly ahead of schedule. However, they apologised for any inconvenience caused.

“We would like to assure residents and businesses that we are working hard to complete this project as soon as we can,” he added. “Engineers are working seven days a week and the work is due to be completed on time.”

Eligible business can also claim for compensation and people can raise concerns by calling 0800 096 5678.