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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Staff laid off and takings down as town centre roadworks bite

Fed-up traders say major disruption has forced them to cut staff as their takings have dried up.

Cockermouth traders photo
John Heron (Fyne Fish), Julie Laidlow (Ferns), Sue Hannah (Limelight), Wendy Warwick (County Fruit Store) Diane Astill (White to Green) and Angela Hope (CP Shop)

Cockermouth’s town centre has been badly hit since long-running roadworks got underway at the start of this month.

The major £1.7 million project, scheduled to be complete in August, has seen a section of Main Street, between Sullart Street and Station Street, closed to traffic.

Pedestrians have been able to access shops and signed diversions are in place for vehicles.

A second section, from High Sand Lane to Cocker Bridge, is due to be closed in May.

Cumbria County Council insists the work is vital to improve the surface water drainage system and make the town more flood-resilient in future.

But businesses say they have been hit hard in the pocket and some have even had to axe workers.

Douglas Baptie, from CP Cumbria, which works with people affected by cerebral palsy, revealed its shop in Station Street is losing more than £300 a week.

He said: “The drop in income was obvious as soon as the roadworks started.

“We are not yet properly into the tourist season so it’s clear the upheaval is putting local people off from coming into the town.”

Donations of stock from the public have also plummeted, he added.

Julie Watson, who runs the Cockermouth Sweet Shop in Main Street, says her profits have halved and she has had to let two of her staff go.

She said: “We are being told that it is business as usual but I am really concerned.

“The traffic has been horrendous and it is putting people off coming in – we want the work over with as soon as possible.”

However, Cockermouth Chamber of Trade chairman Andy Walsh says some businesses have benefited.

He has had to install extra seating at his coffee shop, off Main Street, to cope with demand.

Mr Walsh said: “Undoubtedly it is a very difficult time for many traders and you would never want the main shopping street to be closed for any period, let alone months.

“Some places have been really badly hit while others are doing better than usual so it’s a mixed picture – it would be wrong to say it’s all doom and gloom.”

He says the worst-hit businesses are those whose customers stop outside in their cars, but others have benefited from shoppers taking advantage of free parking.

Mr Walsh also said he was due to meet highways bosses today to discuss the possibility of contractors working seven days a week.

He says this would reduce the length of the project by a month. The contractor has already agreed for workmen to work two extra hours a day.

He is also calling for some parking spaces, which are restricted by boulders, to be freed up.

“That would make a huge difference,” Mr Walsh added.

Keith Little, the county council’s cabinet member for highways, apologised for the disruption and insisted the long-term benefits will “speak for themselves”.

But he also urged shoppers not to stay away.

He said: “What I don’t want to see is businesses going under in the short term.

“They need all our support so please make the effort to visit the town and do some shopping.”

A council spokesman said they were unable to compensate businesses for lost revenue because they could not use taxpayers’ money for private businesses.

“The council is working closely with traders and the local community to mitigate the impact of the works as much as possible,” he said.

  • CP Cumbria urgently needs donations of good quality clothing, especially ladieswear – visit the Cockermouth shop at 4c Station Street or call 01900 823051.
Have your say

Oh dear Dave H obviously not a landlord then. Why should the landlords cover business losses, I've obviously missed something about business haven't i!!!!

Posted by Anon on 9 April 2014 at 13:34

The people who are "paying" for this are the business owners but what about the greedy landlords still taking their rent even when the business' are losing profit - ?
They wont be "paying" for it I'm sure

Posted by Dave H on 8 April 2014 at 12:30

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