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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Fed-up Cockermouth traders demand to know why roadworks have stopped

Fed-up shop owners are demanding answers about why major road works which have closed off a main street for months have ground to a halt.

Cockermouth Main Street photo

Cockermouth Main Street was thrown into chaos in March when £1.7 million worth of improvements began, shutting sections of the busy road while the work was carried out.

Many traders immediately hit out at Cumbria County Council, which is behind the scheme, saying they feared their business would suffer.

Others were positive about the improvements being carried out as they realised the end result would improve the town.

But many of these optimists have now changed their tune, as they are angered there has been no activity in the area for the past fortnight.

Andy Walsh, owner of the Coffee Kitchen, said traders are becoming extremely frustrated.

“We have shown a great deal of support so far and have understood it needs to be done,” he said. “Everybody is really fatigued and to have this hiatus now is not helping. Our patience does run thin at times.”

Mr Walsh, who is also the chairman of the town’s chamber of trade, estimates that in total, businesses will have lost £3m in revenue since the work began.

“We are trying to remain positive because we know we are going to get a better main street, but it’s been hard for a lot of people and some places are planning not to be here in the future,” he added.

The original plan was for the Main Street to be closed until the end of August, but in April the county council threw businesses a lifeline, announcing that the road would be back open to traffic by the end of June, in time for the summer holiday period.

But this has not happened.

The authority told the News & Star the recent delay was due to “unforeseen utilities pipes under the road” and that it expected to “confirm shortly” when the road will reopen.

Traders have now hit out at the council because they feel they have been kept in the dark.

Catherine Hetherington, owner of the New Bookshop, has seen her trade slump as customers find it difficult to get to the Main Street store.

“There is no information available and there’s been no communication with businesses,” she said.

“I was away for three days last week and when I got back there had been no change – I was devastated.”

A county council spokesman said it has been working “very hard” with its contractor on “contingency arrangements” and believed they were now in a position to move forward with the project.

UPDATE 3.25pm: The council says Main Street will reopen to eastbound traffic on or around July 23. Station Street will then be closed for up to two weeks for further works to take place. A diversion will be kept in place for traffic heading west.

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