DURHAM businesses suffering ‘crippling losses’ because of the closure of a vital city bridge have called on council bosses to do more to let people know they remain open for business and have pleaded for cash relief.
Retailers, pubs and hotels have noticed a dramatic fall off in trade since Durham County Council closed New Elvet Bridge closed to traffic and pedestrians in July for essential repairs.
Businessman Imad Ali, who owns the Dunelm Foodstores and recently bought the historic Court Inn, said the closure had impacted heavily on him, with his foodstore alone expected to lose £255,000 during the 14-month closure.
He said: “We don’t get any footfall now. I know it was crucial the works were carried out but with coronavirus retail and leisure are struggling.
“There really needs to be some kind of financial relief given to businesses in the area. And there should be more signage and publicity material making it clear businesses are still open and giving directions to them.”
Rob Bell, of Durham Ginstitute, said: “We had to close because of coronavirus which was bad enough and opened as soon as we could in June. things were starting to pick up again and then the bridge closing was like a double whammy. For the first two weeks footfall dried up. it was like a ghost town.”
“It is a combination of people not knowing how to get in and where they would be park. It was like a ghost town for a couple of weeks.
“Things the council can look at is perhaps having free area for parking at Prince Bishops.
“There are a couple of council road signs saying businesses are open. More could be done to encourage people to come and shop here.”
Dun Cow landlady Jill Carey said: “We are open only Fridays and Saturdays now, as opposed to seven days a week. There are less people through door more staff to pay.
“We are not getting passing trade that might have driven in. It has had a significant impact on our business. Financially it is a worry. The whole street is a ghost town.”
Brian Buckley, the county council’s strategic highways manager, said: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused but we could not delay the repairs to New Elvet Bridge. The works are critical to ensure the bridge remains safe and had to start last month as planned.
“Although the ongoing pandemic has brought new challenges, we are working with all local businesses to support their reopening where it is safe to do so, and to remind people that the city remains open. To support this, we have put up a number of signs around the city stating that businesses are open as usual, which was further highlighted by a radio campaign.
“Should any business feel that they have been adversely impacted by the repairs, we would recommend they submit an appeal to the Valuation Office Agency under their Check, Challenge and Appeal process, where they may be able to secure a reduction in the rateable value of their premises.”