Anger over Lowestoft roadworks
THE region's biggest water company came under fire this week over major roadworks in the heart of Lowestoft that have led to traffic chaos, disruption to businesses and claims that shops are losing trade.
Stephen Baker, the chief executive of Waveney District Council, has sent a strongly-worded letter to Anglian Water after traffic ground to a halt on Monday at the start of the work at Station Square.
The scheme – which will see some motorists facing a diversion of more than a mile for up to five weeks – has been organised to allow engineers to carry out 'essential repairs' on a collapsed sewer.
But Mr Baker has told Anglian Water that neither the council nor the town as a whole were properly informed.
And as Mr Baker voiced his anger that he only found about the work by reading last week's Journal, concerns were voiced about the 'enormous problems' faced by shops as people were put off driving into the town. Among those affected is Palmer's department store which says that its takings have been 6pc down.
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Mr Baker's letter, which was sent on Monday, said: 'It was disappointing that the first this authority knew of such works was when it was reported by the local media. Had we been advised beforehand we would have been able to prepare local communities for the disruption, and we could have helped to advise residents and visitors to the town by sharing this information through our website, newsletters, and other social media.
'We fully appreciate that this work has to be done, but the businesses and residents of the town have had no opportunity to prepare for five weeks of serious disruption.
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'As it is, Lowestoft town centre was gridlocked this morning as everyone made their journeys to work.
'This congestion could have been eased if local communities had been informed beforehand, enabling them to stagger journey times, share cars or opt for alternative routes. I have received many complaints and adverse comments about these works, and the information available, from members of the council and the public.'
Mr Baker has asked Anglian Water for a full explanation. However, at a full meeting of the council on Wednesday night, councillors were told that no response had so far been received from the company.
Lowestoft mayor Tod Sullivan has asked the council if it can do anything to help shops affected by the work – especially in the light of the controversial bascule bridge repairs in 2008 that saw 37 overnight closures.
He has suggested that the council allows free parking in the town on Saturdays during the work to draw in extra custom. He told the Journal: 'There has not been any communication from Anglian Water about this. It is just shocking and disrespectful. It shows no consideration for people and businesses of the town. There are still people who abandoned Lowestoft after the bridge work – and that could happen again.'
Sue Patterson, store manager at Palmers told the Journal yesterday that sales had been down on Monday and Tuesday because of the road works. She said: 'Our figures are down because people are getting the wrong message about Lowestoft. Why can't these road works be done at night time rather than during the day when people are trying to come into the town?
'My staff are having to leave off half an hour early just to get into work and we are 6pc down on two days trading – its just chaos. We have got five weeks of this and it is going to go into half term as well when we get our normal shoppers back.'
Emma King, town centre manager, said: 'The roadworks have caused enormous problems for the businesses in town and it's very frustrating after the commitment and effort that the retailers and council have shown with the car park refund scheme and cheaper car parking to entice shoppers back in to the Lowestoft.
'It is soul destroying to see that the hard work of the last few years to bring people back into Lowestoft is being threatened by these roadworks.
'We had little prior warning and at least if we had of done we would have been prepared for it and acted accordingly.'
As revealed in The Journal last week, the �130,000 sewer repair work means vehicles are prevented from turning right from Station Square into Waveney Road as the middle lane of north-bound A12 remains closed for up to five weeks. Traffic is being diverted via Denmark Road, Katwijk Way, St Peter's Street, Artillery Way, Old Nelson Street and Battery Green.
A spokesman for Anglian Water, which also paid for a public notice to appear in The Journal two weeks ago, said: 'We regret that Waveney seem not to have been made aware of our work to repair a damaged sewer in Station Square. We always endeavour to let local authorities know when we are planning work in their area as a matter of courtesy. We are sorry that this does not appear to have happened on this occasion.
'However, these essential repair works have been meticulously planned to minimise any disruption to local residents and commuters. Our engineers are working the maximum permitted hours during the week and weekends to complete these works ahead of schedule so the road can reopen.
'The sewer we are working to repair is some five metres beneath the road, which is why we have requested the road by shut for up to five weeks. Clearly while these works are bound to cause some disruption, but we need to make this repair to safeguard both our service to customers and the safety of road users.'