TRADERS in Midhurst’s Old Town have been hit with a double whammy, as work on Market Square and the Grange Centre has disrupted trade.
The works on Market Square, which began on February 18, are to transform the historic town centre into a continental-style piazza.
Traders knew it would be a tough few months and support the project, but many are dismayed at what they believe is a case of bad planning.
Work to replace the pavements with Yorkstone has ground to a halt, as contractors have dug up the pavements but have not had the new stone delivered.
This has left several roads around the centre blocked off, meaning trade in West Street and Red Lion Street is suffering from lack of footfall.
Cherry Pot, who owns a grocery shop on Red Lion Street, said: “It is not ideal, it is affecting trade. Less people are coming in and those that do are moaning about it. It puts people off.
“It looks like the whole thing has ground to a halt. They do not care, and are not thinking about the businesses that are affected.”
Becky Steed, store manager of West Street’s Real Flower Company, said: “It will be good when it is finished, but it is a pain at the moment. They have not got delivery of the pavement yet, and it is ridiculous to start the work without the materials.
“A lot of the business in West Street comes from people driving past and coming back later, and our footfall has dropped dramatically.”
Becky also raised concerns about the timing of the works, which coincides with the huge Grange Leisure Centre project which has reduced parking space.
“All the work is being done at the same time and it is cutting off business. It’s started at the same time as a major project at the Grange,” she said.
“Why do them both at the same time?”
Anthony Lodge, who owns a fine jewellery shop on Church Hill, said: “I phoned Highways and they just do not care about the retailers.
“They have no consideration about what they are doing to the town.”
David Duncan, chairman of Midhurst Old Town Residents and Business Association (MOTRA), was concerned about the county council’s road closure, which gives blanket permission to close all the surrounding roads for up to 18 months.
He said: “The retail shops are struggling as it is. It is not just stopping the flow of traffic, but the flow of people.”
There were concerns about the pavement being dug up before the replacement paving was delivered, but a West Sussex County Council spokesman said it had had the paving stones since January, and it was only some radius kerbs not cut to size that were not included with the order.
The council was expecting them to be delivered yesterday.
Mr Duncan met with West Sussex County Council’s project manager who said West Street and Red Lion Street would be closed until March 15.
“She said the work had been delayed not just from the late delivery, but the cold weather means they cannot lay the concrete.
“They claim they have to close the roads for health and safety reasons.”
A council spokesman said: “We have had our paving stones since January 2013. It was only some radius kerbs not cut to size that were not included with the order and we expect these to arrive on Wednesday.
“The pavement was dug last week ready to be concreted however the weather conditions proved to be too cold for concreting so they were filled back with rubble for safety reasons. This work is now scheduled to recommence on Wednesday and the road is only being kept shut for pedestrian safety.
“However the works in this area are still on the planned programme and the contractor will endeavour to keep to it.
“The county council and the contractors are committed to work with traders and residents to minimise disruption and a further letter drop to keep them informed is due shortly.
“We currently have two archaeologist carrying out a watch and brief at Midhurst Market Square working alongside our contractor and they have so far have discovered a number of medieval post holes to North area of Market Square.
“This is an important scheme for Midhurst that will enhance the town and at this stage the project is on schedule. There was a great deal of advance warning including a public exhibition.”