Transport chiefs have come under fire for closing a key Blackpool town centre road for three months during the heart of the tourist season.
Today will see Corporation Street shut between Church Street and West Street until October to enable a £600,000 bus hub to be built.
The work includes creating an extra bus lane, widening the road for safer access for taxis and buses, putting in a new bus stop and improving the road and pavement surfaces.
But the timing has been criticised with questions asked about why it cannot be delayed until later in the year.
However highways chiefs say it must be done now to fit in with other improvements to the resort’s public transport system including the tramway extension.
It will be the second bus hub in the town centre after Market Street and is being funded through the council’s Local Transport Plan.
Robert Wynne, who owns the Rose and Crown on Corporation Street, said: “This is an absolutely crazy time to do this work, probably the best 15 weeks of the year for all town centre businesses.
“We have all put up with tremendous disruption over the last two winters, but at least that was the winter.
“To pick this time to shut down Corporation Street is a real kick in the teeth. It isn’t the contractors’ fault, it is entirely the fault of an out of touch local council leadership.
“It will potentially put people out of business.”
He questioned the short notice given ahead of the works, saying: “It seems that they cut it as fine as legally possible. I have no idea why they would do this.”
Mr Wynne said he was told by a council officer that notice was given on July 3 and the order made on July 12. Seven day is the minimum notice period required by law.
Another trader, who asked not to be named, said: “I welcome regeneration but the timing of the work is off. This work should have been done during the winter.”
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition Conservative group on the council, branded the timing of the work “a shambles”.
He said: “I understand the projected time scale for this work is 15 weeks which means Corporation Street together with parts of Church Street will be closed during the height of the season and even into the Illuminations.
“This is an absolute shambles as businesses on this street and adjacent shops on Church Street will undoubtedly lose trade during the busiest time of the year.
“Not only that, the taxi rank on Church Street, one of the busiest in the town, will have to be moved together with the bus stops on Corporation Street itself.
“Surely this work could have been carried out in the winter months. I think the timing and the council’s attitude is a kick in the teeth for traders in the main months of the season.”
The taxi rank on Church Street will also close as part of the work.
Council chiefs said the work had to be done now to meet regeneration and funding deadlines.
A council spokesperson said: “As part of making Blackpool a better place for everyone, work will be carried out on Corporation Street in partnership with Blackpool Transport.
“This will improve the transport infrastructure and make travelling from the town centre easier and better connected.
“All series of highways works within the town centre relate together.
“This means that they are all connected together through specific timescales, for example, we cannot continue with the tramway extension on Talbot Road without completing the improvements to the public transport access in the town centre.
“Also, the longer daylight hours during summer time means that we can work on the roadworks for longer in mild conditions.
“There is also a spend profile that we need to comply with from the funding. Restricted timescales means we have to spend the money within a certain timeframe or we lose it.
“We would like to thank motorists, residents and local business owners in advance for their patience while we carry out this important work.”
Several projects under way
A range of projects are under way to upgrade Blackpool town centre.
The closure of Corporation Street is the latest in a string of roadworks needed as part of the schemes.
As well at the ongoing tramway extension, which saw sections of Talbot Road closed off, a £7m facelift for several town centre roads – including Church Street, Dickson Road and Cookson Street, has affected traffic in the name of improving the resort.
In December, one resort store, Big Woody’s on Talbot Square, blamed the length of the Talbot Road closure for it having to relocate outside the town centre, saying business had been hit by a drop in footfall.
Taxis will drive down Market Street and turn right onto the Promenade. Church Street and Corporation Street will be closed off completely.
There will be no bus stops operating on Market Street and Corporation Street during the works. Temporary bus stops will be in place. For more information, visit www.blackpooltransport.com
Once the road has re-opened services will return to their normal stops with the addition of other services to help improve linked journeys through Blackpool town centre.