Major gas works set to last six months and cost £50,000 are due to start in Midhurst on Monday.
The work being carried out by gas pipeline operator Southern Gas Networks (SGN) will involve replacing ageing iron gas mains and services in South Street, Duck Lane, Sheep Lane and West Street with durable plastic polyethylene pipe.
But SGN is keen to stress that it will be business as usual and there will be access to homes and businesses throughout the project, with all shops and businesses open as normal.
The gas company was forced to rethink its schedule of works earlier this year when traders went into melt-down at the prospect of a 22-week virtual shutdown of the heart of the town during the height of the summer season.
SGN had originally intended to start the work in May and run right through the busiest season for traders until September 9.
But after a meeting with shop owners in April the programme of works was moved back to allay their fears.
SGN construction manager Paul Willis said: “All of our work is being carried out in close consultation with West Sussex County Council and the local community, including traders. We will be doing everything we can to minimise disruption.
“We understand people get frustrated by roadworks, however we would urge people to have patience with us while we carry out these essential replacement works – there will be short-term disruption, but it will produce a long-term safe and reliable gas supply for Midhurst.
“The project forms part of our ongoing mains replacement programme designed to maintain safe and reliable gas supplies to the area into the future.”
He said the scale and extent of the project and the large diameter of the pipes meant heavy plant and equipment would have to be used.
“To allow room to manoeuvre the equipment and to ensure everyone’s safety, we will need to implement road closures during the project,” added Mr Willis.
Work will begin on Monday in South Street when SGN will close the northbound section of the road for six weeks between the entrance of the car park to The Spread Eagle Hotel and the junction of West Street. Northbound traffic in South Street will be diverted via Chichester Road, New Road, Bepton Road and West Street, ensuring access to the town centre if necessary.
On September 26, work will start in Duck Lane and the road will be closed to traffic for eight weeks.
On November 7, work will start in West Street when the road will be closed to traffic for six weeks between the junctions of Duck Lane and South Street.
Traffic heading east and south will be diverted from West Street into Bepton Road, Knockhundred Row, Church Street and South Street. The reverse route applies to traffic heading west and north.
From December 5, work will take place in Sheep Lane.
SGN will close the road to traffic and place traffic lights at the junction of Sheep Hill and Church Hill. “This final phase will take nine weeks to complete, but we will suspend our works during the Christmas and New Year period to avoid disruption to the town,” said Mr Willis.
“Due to Midhurst’s historical heritage, we will have an archaeologist on site in case our excavations unearth any artefacts of interest.
“If this happens, we may also have to suspend our work so that further investigations can take place.”