Traders’ anger at shock Wheathampstead road closure

SHOPS and businesses on a busy village road say they were not warned of a road closure that cost them hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of pounds in lost trade.

The affected businesses on Wheathampsted High Street say they were not informed of the road closure on Saturday and that their businesses suffered significant financial losses because there was no through traffic.

Maurice Shifrin of The Old Bakery Carpets had no customers until 3.30pm on Saturday because of the roadworks, which Herts Highways say were for essential resurfacing work.

He said he had received no warning of the closure and explained that although a sign had been in place near to the roundabout at the end of the High Street where the road meets Lower Luton Road, there had been no specific road named and the general assumption had been that it was Lower Luton Road which would be closed.

Mr Shifrin said: “I may as well have closed the shop for the day because of the lack of business. I’m cross too because we believe the parish council knew about these plans and didn’t inform us.

“I will be seeking some form of financial compensation but what matters most is that this never happens again and that the people responsible for authorising the work on the busiest trading day of the week are held accountable.”

With the road closed for most of the day, many businesses which stock fresh produce lost a significant amount of money.

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The Bull had about 120 people booked in for lunch and because of diversions which led them around the village, many people got lost and were late or eventually gave up.

Manager Derrick Fiddes said the pub lost over �1,200 and had customers phoning from country lanes to say they’d lost their way after following a diversion put in place by Herts Highways.

Mr Fiddes added: “It was a very bad day and it’s not the first time the business has been disrupted. It’s a difficult enough time as it is and people are eating out less, but now when they go out just once instead of a few times, they spend more. When I went out to the post office later in the day, there didn’t seem to be a lot happening out there, just lots of workmen sat in their lorries.

“Even when they had finished, they left the ‘road closed’ signs up and eventually somebody kicked them down as it was possible to use the road.”

Rachel Jeffrey, the owner of the Rachel Jeffrey jewellery shop, had been expecting students for a jewellery course but many turned away thinking the village was closed and those who did arrive were late.

She said: “Those customers that came in said that from the Gustard Wood End of the village, it appeared that the entire village was closed off and they didn’t expect to see any of the shops open.

“This is the third time this has happened and the yellow diversion signs are so unwelcoming and inadequate that it takes a very determined person to persevere.”

Rachel echoed calls by other affected traders for a sign which would have informed people that businesses were open as usual.

District councillor for Wheathampstead, Chris Oxley, shared the traders’ anger and said the whole incident was scandalous. “There have been a string of errors made by Herts Highways here. The first is the inadequate signage. They failed to put up clear signs. Secondly, they failed to inform the businesses. It’s just not acceptable.

“Of course the roadworks need to be done but to choose to do this on a Saturday just defies belief. The businesses have every right to seek compensation because they were not informed. They are struggling to make a crust and they aren’t being supported by the very people who should be supporting them.

“Why the parish clerk didn’t tell anybody about this, I don’t know. If the parish councillors had been informed, they would have let the businesses know.”

But parish council clerk Julia Warren refuted the claims and said: “We did not know it was going to happen. If we had known we would have passed that on but we didn’t have the information.”

Herts Highways said that access to the shops was maintained via a signed diversion. A spokesperson said that notice boards had been up prior to the works starting and that letters had been sent to properties within the closure area.

None of the businesses contacted by the Herts Advertiser had received a letter notifying them of the road closure.