Long-running sewer repairs leave Colchester businesses on the brink of going down the drain
- Credit: Su Anderson
Businesses say they have been left counting the cost and struggling for survival after a collapsed sewer has closed a Colchester town centre road for six weeks.
Anglian Water was first called to the damaged pipe in St John’s Street on May 27, but work was delayed from the initial five day repairs due to the scale of the problem – forcing the busy bus thoroughfare to remain closed for five weeks.
Not only was the pipe 2.5 metres underground, but engineers had to tunnel four metres under the road to complete the repairs.
Some local businesses along the street claim trade is 50% down due to the decrease in footfall and bus passengers.
Metin Ozer at Mr Chippy’s said he had been forced to delay utility, rent and tax payments with trade down a half, while April Moodie, manager at Music Warehouse and cafe said trade was well down as people thought the street was closed – adding she was disappointed there were no “businesses open as usual” signs to encourage footfall to remain.
Izabela Serwin, of Cardamon Tea Lounge and Shop, said with the business only beginning in March it was a very fragile time for the cafe.
“For this month we should be up, but we are really down,” she said.
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“There are ingredients we can’t use and we are losing customers.”
“Of course they need to fix it but they are not handling it very well.”
Jessica Schomberg, owner of Jes dress shop, said: “There seems to be no rush and they seem oblivious to us. I have been shocked by their lack of care.
“People don’t walk past and you can see why.
“My family has had shops on this street for about 60 years, but there are hardly any small traders left. It really gets me down to see the street looking like this – this town could be so beautiful.
“We only open for two periods a year and had to delay opening because we could not get furniture into the shop.
“I don’t know how much trade it will cost us and I am really worried.”
Derrick McLean, owner of S&S Caribbean, added: “The loss of business is more than 50%.
“I understand they had problems, but in no way, shape or form have they informed us about what is going on, which is remiss of them.
“The big brand stores can absorb it better than us small sole traders. Who is going to help, what am I supposed to do?”
The firms have written to both Anglian Water and Colchester Borough Council to ask for compensation and business rate relief to help them survive.
An Anglian Water spokesman said: “Unfortunately the length of the sewer collapse is larger than first thought and very deep underground, therefore the repair took longer than expected and we are sorry for the delay.
“To minimise the amount of road we needed to excavate we tunnelled underneath the road. This is an extremely complex job, which needs to be completed safely and with specialist equipment and reinforcement.
“The repair has now been completed and our teams are back filling the excavation and resurfacing. We hope to have the road reopened by the end of the week.
“We know any type of repair or replacement work we do is disruptive, particularly in this busy part of town, and we are sorry for any inconvenience caused.
“If businesses can show a loss of profit because of our works, and can submit supporting evidence, we will always look at their claim.”
A council spokesman said: “It is common for us to receive requests for relief on business rates due to roadworks or street improvements. We have limited mechanisms to support such businesses through business rate relief.
“The roadworks in St John’s Street are not under council control, and we would urge businesses to approach Anglian Water in the first instance.”