Roadworks crippling Blackpool businesses were ‘avoidable’

Traffic down to one way at Highfield Road as United Utilities tries to replace underground pipes
Traffic down to one way at Highfield Road as United Utilities tries to replace underground pipes

Furious traders have today said major delays to roadworks that are crippling their businesses could have been avoided.

United Utilities bosses have been accused of failing to do their homework before partially closing Highfield Road, in South Shore.

Work to dig up the street only began eight weeks after it was shut in one direction due to problems with the sandy soil – something Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said he warned the water company about.

Traders say the reduced passing trade has been bad for business.

Judith Sheldon from Campbell’s Sandwich Bar said: “Our trade has been decimated and it will be hard to get custom back.”

Mr Marsden has written to bosses at United Utilities to demand they explain to the businesses what will happen now and to offer an apology plus compensation.

He said he warned the company about the underground sand but it failed to investigate properly.

“The businesses are in a serious and frustrating position through the continuing failure to get to grips with the problems,” he added.

He said the firm’s response so far had been ‘inadequate’.

Phil Nuttal, owner of The Cruise Village travel business, said: “United Utilities simply did not do due diligence before they started. They should be ashamed of themselves.

“When they initially started digging further down Highfield Road near the home, the road collapsed in due to the sand and they had to stop.

“The road has been closed for months with nothing to show for it. Customers cannot park and so our trade has been badly affected along here. It is a complete dog’s dinner.”

Leonard Price, from the Sweet and Sour sweet shop, said: “They closed the road one way on April 24 and they have only properly started work near our shops last week.

“Our business has been hugely affected. No-one can park easily so passing trade has been hit.”

Judith Sheldon, from Campbell’s Sandwich Bar, said: “Our trade has been decimated because we rely on passing trade and people phoning ahead to pick up sandwiches later and no-one can park. People will change their routine and it will be hard to get custom back.

“They did hand out forms to apply for loss of trade compensation at the start but getting a payment at the end when its all over may be too late for some.”

Ann Barnes, from Ann Barnes Florist, said: “This is the eighth week now and they have only just started digging. It has been ridiculous from start to finish.

“The businesses along here have tried to be positive about it but the whole situation is ridiculous.”

Philip Wunderley, owner of Checkpoint Motor Accessories, said: “Certainly my business has been hit since 95 per cent of my customers are drivers and drive here.

“They were told about the sand. They did not do their homework. Not only that but there has been a massive lack of communications from them.”

A United Utilities spokesman said it carried out a ground investigation survey but some of the conditions have been ‘more extreme’ than expected. It added other work had been completed during the delays.

A spokesman added: “We’re very sorry the local community are frustrated by our on-going work on Highfield Road. Our team is now back laying the section of pipework from Fisher’s Field up to the junction with Lindale Gardens and are doing all they can to keep disruption to a minimum.

“We recognise work of this nature is difficult for the community and we’ll continue to keep local residents and businesses informed of progress.”