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Anger as road works return

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: December 04, 2013

By Leslie Jackson

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TRADERS and councillors have reacted with anger after it was revealed Leek faces more road works lasting almost seven months.

Staffordshire County Council has issued a notice for road closures in Derby Street and the temporary suspension of one-way traffic in Bath Street, Russell Street and Derby Street, from Market Street to the Russell Street junction.

On-street parking in Bath Street and Russell Street will be suspended during the phased work, which is due to take place from early January until the end of July.

The work involves carriageway resurfacing and public realm work. and is the follow-on phase from the removal of the town's roundabout and public realm work at the bottom of Derby Street.

Traders and councillors have voiced anger at the news, which initially came in a letter sent to some business owners.

The issue was debated as a matter of urgency at a meeting of the district council's ruling cabinet yesterday, Tuesday.

Leader Sybil Ralphs said: "The main streets of Leek will be affected up to July 22. We as an authority have not been informed.

"I am deeply concerned what effect this will have on traders, residents and shoppers. I will be contacting the leader of the county council to see what is going on.

"We need consultation. I am furious the way this has been handled. Why has Derby Street got to be closed?

"What are the highways trying to do to the town, as it seems lessons have not been learnt from the work at the bottom of Derby Street?"

Leek South county councillor Charlotte Atkins said the work was intended to be completed by June. She said: "We asked for this in two different phases. I do not know why this has happened. I am very disappointed the work will go on into the main tourist season.

"But the district council's planning committee approved this. It goes back to the Sainsbury's supermarket development at the Churnet Works when the roads were included as one plan, which has had serious consequences for Leek."

However, Leek Town mayor John Fisher said: "This is not going to be easy. I think we have to go through pain to get gain.

"At the moment one half of the main street is completely different architecturally to the other. There has been controversy, but when the public see the finish it will be worthwhile."

"Shops are just recovering now; they will get no passing trade."

Barry Cowie of Chaplins in Sheepmarket said: "I think the road works are unnecessary. I am concerned there will be chaos and it will affect shopkeepers.

"The town already has a lack of car parking; now there will be less.

"The district council should open up their own car park at the rear of Moorlands House for shoppers."

Alan Lyford of the Town Crier Newsagents in Derby Street said he was very concerned over almost seven months of disruption.

He said: "Trade has gone down since the last road works finished as there are less visitors in town.

"There is now general concern as no thought has been given of what could happen to businesses. We can't survive without customers.

"We should be given compensation and rates stopped for the time of the disruption. We have not asked for this, so why should we suffer."

Julie Ratcliffe, who owns Coffee at Julie's and the adjacent Stone Baked shop said : "I am 20 per cent down from the last road works. Now this will be right outside my business.

"It will affect the economy. We employ local staff, so I am very concerned."

Retired engineer, Roger Cannon represented campaigners in court over the removal of the roundabout.

He said: "We will have six months or more of total chaos, and a massive reduction in parking.

"Welcome tourist to Leek - sorry there is nowhere to park.

"This cannot be allowed to go ahead. I did not represent the protesters in court for this to happen to our town.

"To everyone concerned, shopkeepers, residents - rise up, make your voice heard. Tell the county council enough is enough."

Simon Tagg, Staffordshire County Council's cabinet support member for transport and connected county, said: "The investment in highways is crucial to the regeneration of towns like Leek and plays a key role in attracting and supporting new businesses such as the Premier Inn.

"The first phase of the scheme was completed last year and after listening to residents, businesses and local councillors it was agreed to start the second phase in early 2014, so Christmas trade and town celebrations were not affected.

"The next stage will not involve closing the whole stretch along Derby Street at once, but will be carried out in four phases to allow continued access to businesses and to off-street car parking as the scheme progresses.

"We will of course be working closely with residents and businesses before starting work and as we roll out the improvements in 2014."

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