Shop owners say Wickham Market is ‘still open for business’ despite High Street’s gas work road closure

Wickham Market High Street

Wickham Market High Street - Credit: Archant

Shop owners in a Suffolk village whose high street has been closed for gas works are reminding customers it is still “business as usual” in an attempt to counter the negative impact on trade they claim has been caused.

National Grid closed part of Wickham Market High Street on Monday and is not scheduled to reopen it until February 22 as part of seven weeks of essential works to connect a new housing estate to the mains.

Businesses had been warned to expect disruption as a result of the closure and can claim compensation for loss in profits, but many say it has hit them far harder than they first feared.

David Kirk, who runs the post office in High Street, said turnover was down 20% in the first week of the works, before the full road closure took effect, and on Monday the village was almost empty.

Other businesses have criticised the signs that have been put up, diverting traffic around the A12, which they claim has deterred visitors by portraying the situation to be worse than it is.

Margaret Reeve, who co-owns R&S Hardware and Gardening, said: “Everybody’s business has been affected.

“The signage is bad and the adverts are bad – people can still get on The Hill but it makes out the whole village is closed.”

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National Grid’s authorising engineer Vince Doggett has acknowledged the work may cause disruption and thanked the residents, businesses and motorists for their “continued understanding and patience”.

“It is vital that our engineers carry out these essential works so that the residents of Wickham Market continue to enjoy a safe and reliable gas supply well into the future,” he added.

“We planned this time of year to do the works as it is quieter and is outside the busy tourist season, so that we minimise any disruption.

“Our team have worked very hard to keep everyone fully informed and updated about the works.

“The parish council has been very supportive in helping us to successfully do this.”

Parish chairman Dick Jenkinson said he accepted the works needed to be done but hoped they could have been highlighted earlier when the planning application was originally submitted.

“It’s extremely quiet up around The Hill and everybody in Wickham Market is finding it very difficult,” he added.

Wickham Market Town Team chairman Colin Owens, who has been working to revive the village’s economy, also highlighted how quiet it had become since the road closure began.

“These works have taken the residents totally by surprise,” he added.

Mr Doggett stressed the work team would “make every effort to complete the work as soon as possible”.

“If anyone has any queries or concerns about our work or would like information about our business compensation scheme, they can contact us on 0800 096 5678,” he added

“For everyone’s safety the High Street is temporarily closed to traffic for a short time until Sunday, February 22.”