Gas works will paralyse the heart of Midhurst for up to 22 weeks from May to September, a bombshell announcement has revealed.
A scheme to replace ageing mains will affect South Street, West Street, Sheep Lane and Duck Lane, starting on May 2 and expected to continue until September 9.
Traders in West Street face a double whammy, with their own street closed for two weeks in the height of summer and South Street, an access road into the old town area, shut for a month at the start of the rolling programme.
Initial reaction this week has been one of horror, as hopes of a revival in business after a drab winter look set to be shattered.
The closures coincide with major events which bring traffic and trade to the town, such as the Gold Cup polo tournament at Cowdray Park from June 21 to July 17, the Festival of Speed at Goodwood at the beginning of July, and Glorious Goodwood at the end of the same month.
Sarah Hall, who has a children’s clothes shop, said: “I am pretty devastated that the work will be going on for 22 weeks at the height of the visitor season.
“It is going to be noisy and dirty. Whereas before people might sit outside the coffee shop in the square and then wander along West Street, literally we are not going to see them for dust.
“The gas company says they are doing the work in the summer because the demand for gas is less, but if we have a bad summer because of it, on top of a bad winter, I think it will kill my business,” she warned.
Greengrocer Teresa Clark said she was ‘absolutely dreading’ the prospect of the works.
“When they are doing West Street, all our summer fruits will be in. We will not be able to display them outside as we usually do because of the works, and customers will be put off trying to get to us,” she said.
Fresh fruit and vegetables had a short shelf life, the shop had deliveries to do and deliveries coming in.
“I honestly don’t know how I am going to get round this,” Mrs Clark said.
The company is holding a meeting to discuss the works in detail with householders and traders. It will be at the Spread Eagle Hotel in South Street on Thursday, April 14 at 6.30pm.
Letters will go to all affected properties and the project manager, Geoff Groves, will be at the meeting.