Building works disrupt traders

TRADERS in a Royston shopping street are reporting significant losses and a reduction in footfall due to “questionable” works being carried out.

Stores such as the Mello coffee shop, Chapter Five clothes shop and the Premier Express newsagents have seen their footfall disrupted due to the relaying of paving on Angel Pavement in the town centre.

They are also dubious over whether it will benefit the street in the long run, sharing the view that it needs more decoration to see an increase in visitors.

A further blow for the traders came with the news that the work will now take six weeks rather than the original four according to signs erected at either end of the street.

Dawn Abrams, manager of Mello, said: “Our takings have been significantly down, though I don’t want to say how much. “We can’t get mothers with buggies in or people with mobility scooters, and we have a lot of customers that use those.

“The noise is a problem too. People don’t want to sit here and listen to a drill while having a coffee. Our name is Mello and we should be able to provide a mellow atmosphere.”

Mrs Abrams also expressed concerns over the safety of the works, and claims she has seen “countless” people trip over the boundaries, while she also says she helped an elderly man after he had his foot caught in a hole where a paving slab was.

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The Chapter Five clothes shop, which has had to put up a sign saying they are open due to boundaries being put just two yards from their door, has also seen a fall in sales.

Manager Helen Wardle said: “We have a sale on this week, and the works have definitely affected how many customers we have had in here.

“We have barely had anyone in today and our transactions are well down. One lady had a buggy and couldn’t get through the gap, so I had to go out and help her. She has been the only one that has attempted it.”

Sales assistant Elaine Penalver, wondered whether the works were needed, and questioned whether they could be carried out at a different time.

“It’s questionable whether just the pavement will make a difference. Plants and benches would be good down the street to make it look nicer, as admittedly it does look a bit run down.

“It would be better if it was done out of business hours though, as it is affecting us badly.”

Raj Athavan, assistant at the Premier Express newsagents, said his shop’s takings were down significantly.

“Yesterday (Monday), we were down �400, and Sunday we were down �300.

“We have lost a high amount of customers and I don’t know whether it will be worth it.”

Mrs Abrams has been keeping a close eye on the times the workers are at the site, claiming they haven’t worked past 2pm on any of the days they have been there.

“Their permitted hours are from 7.30am until 6.30pm, but they have not arrived before 8.30am and they have left before 2pm every day. This also includes an hour for lunch.

“No wonder the have increased the time by two weeks. They are not doing enough work.”

Despite the sign going up, Herts County Council denied the works will take six weeks. A spokesperson said: ““We will have a better idea of exactly how long the work will take once we have carried out an assessment of progress at the end of this week. At this stage, four weeks is still the anticipated timescale.”

County councillor for Royston Fiona Hill defended the works, saying they are much needed for the vitality of the town.

“Angel Pavement still has the concrete paving slabs from the original development in the 1960s which have now become damaged and uneven. We hope that the much needed rejuvenation will make a more attractive place for shoppers and will encourage more people to visit the Town Centre,” she said.

“The enhancement of the street was previously identified as part of the strategy for the regeneration of Royston Town Centre which also includes plans for Fish Hill Square and the Royston Cross area.”