Tony Bywater, who runs Tony’s Kitchen in Frodsham Street, only bought the enterprise last March after being told work to make the street more pedestrian-friendly would only last for six to eight weeks outside his shop front.
Six months later the dust, noise and disruption is still ongoing, partly because a supplier went into liquidation but there are also complaints about lack of progress during the Christmas shut-down and insufficient numbers working on the project in the early days.
Tony estimates takings are down 50%, making the shop unviable. The only reason he can keep going is because he has another business which is subsidising the loss-making venture.
He said: “I only bought this business in March, 2016. We knew about the plans in the street but initially it was six to eight weeks directly outside the shop because we spoke to the council and they were doing it in five stages.”
Tony, who employs five part-timers, isn’t hopeful of any compensation although the Valuation Office will consider a temporary reduction in his business rates.
“If I knew this was going to go on for six months I wouldn’t have touched it,” he explained. “Now we’re looking at taking it further and suing them, if we do go out of business, because I’ve only bought a property on a basis there’s roadworks for six to eight weeks directly outside my shop but none of the council seem to be bothered.”
Construction on the project began in June to create a welcoming shared space for pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists tied in with work to create a new bus interchange at Gorse Stacks. The construction phase was supposed to last six months in total but carried out in sections, starting at the Foregate Street end and moving down the road in the direction of Tesco. The original finish date was December.
But progress has been slow partly because the supplier of granite setts went into liquidation. This not only led to disruption in the order of construction but delayed the finish date to early March 2017.
However, Tony isn’t hopeful it will be ready in time given the amount of work still left to be completed.
He continued: “Everybody keeps telling me the street is going to be buzzing because of the bus station and people walking down but customers who came here six months ago have gone elsewhere now and are they going to come back?”
The Chronicle has spoken to several independent businesses about the problems but not everyone wishes to be identified.
Alfie Allman owns Brooklyn Barber Shop in Brookdale Place, opposite the new bus interchange. Alfie reckons he is £500 a week down because car parking in front of his shop has been used as a storage yard for months on end and is still out of bounds as stone setts are being laid. His says his blood pressure is through the roof with all the stress.
Pointing towards car parking area, he said: “The work to lay the cobbles has taken them roughly about a month but for the last 12 months that area has been used as a storage yard.”
Alfie claims to have been promised a drop-off area and the pavement outside his shop would be ready by Christmas but the deadline came and went. And because of the order in which the work is being carried out, the hairdresser suspects he will be among the last businesses to return to normal.
CWaC says it holds regular meetings with traders and that site staff liaise with individual properties when access is affected. And while traders are suspicious the new-look street won’t be ready for the latest finish date, Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for the environment, confirmed: “Our contractor's latest works programme still aims for a completion date in early March.”