Ipswich: Business owners in talks over impact of roadworks

FRUSTRATED business owners were due to meet today to air their concerns over the significant loss of takings following long-running roadworks in the town centre.

Jane Chambers, Suffolk county councillor for the St Helen’s ward, organised the meeting to give businesses a chance to discuss the issue and to find a way forward.

The work, which is being carried out by National Grid on the junction between Fore Street, Orwell Place, Upper Orwell Street and Eagle Street, is to replace the gas mains.

Yesterday, The Ipswich Star reported how businesses in the area are claiming the roadworks have severely hit their takings as a result of the reduced footfall.

Among those suffering is Ladies That Lunch in Fore Street. Sheila Bloom, one of the owners, said they cannot afford to pay their business rates as they are not making enough money. After opening two years ago, she said business was at its worst.

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“We physically cannot afford the rates,” said Mrs Bloom. “We haven’t got the footfall. Today we have taken for two cups of coffee and a lunch – that’s about �10 and it’s not enough.

“I understand the work has to be done but every single entrance to the street is blocked.

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“I’m worried all of the time. The only thing I can hope is that someone will hear us and understand what we are going through.”

Sheryl McGeown, landlady of the Spread Eagle pub, added: “There is a digger outside my front door and people are coming in saying they can’t hear anything because of the noise.

“I’ve built up this pub over the last four years and I feel my hard work has been undone in a matter of weeks.”

County councillor Mrs Chambers said: “I organised the meeting because businesses are in decline.

“I think the businesses should get a break from paying business rates while the roadworks are ongoing.”

A handful of businesses in the area are due to go to magistrates’ court today accused of not paying their business rates.

Once National Grid has finished its work, the county council will finish off the resurfacing of the roads.

Raymond Miller, National Grid’s spokesman for the East of England, said: “Our work in Ipswich is essential to replace some of the town’s ageing gas mains and has been a large, complex job.

“It has taken half the time it would normally take as we have used new technology where we insert new pipes into the old mains.

“It has also meant we have not had to dig a large trench along the whole route.

“Unfortunately part of this project has been particularly difficult and will take longer than we hoped.

“We do understand people’s frustrations but this �150,000 investment will help secure a safe and reliable gas supply to the town until the end of the century.”

n Are you a business owner in the area and have a view on this? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

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