Towcester a 'ghost town' as high street roadworks cost businesses

Roadworks on Towcester's high street have hit businesses' revenue and turned it into a "ghost town", some traders have claimed.

Friday, 26th October 2018, 6:59 am
Towcester has been described as a "ghost town" with roadworks set to last until next month

Highways England announced a six-month period of work to the A5 Watling Street in July and said they would finish in November.

But the financial damage has been done for shops both on and away from the high street, though some less reliant on passing trade have not felt the effects as hard as others.

Lois Hook, owner of the Reptile and Fish shop in the Bell Plantation Garden Centre, north of the roadworks, said she had seen a decrease in footfall.

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The A5 is still accessible by cars but not HGVs

She opened the shop, her second after the Northampton Reptile Shop in Weedon Road, in April last year and had high expectations for this summer's takings.

"We would have been expected to have been a good percentage up and we are down on what we did last year," she said.

"We went into last winter knowing it would be tough and we are going into this winter in the same situation."

But above all Lois was concerned for the businesses on Towcester's high street, where retailers have endured constant roadworks since the summer.

Tori Watson, breakfast manager at 185 Watling Street, estimated weekly losses at the pub and restaurant were as high as £12,000 a week.

"We have been dead for weeks and weeks," she said.

"It's like a ghost town. People won't come because they think Towcester is shut."

Tori was referring to roadside signage on the major roads leading to Towcester (the M1, M40, A43, A508) which warned drivers of the A5's closure.

She and Lois feel that drivers understand that to mean they should avoid driving through Towcester completely, even though the high street can still be accessed by cars - but not HGVs.

It is not until you arrive nearer the high street that you see signs that read "businesses open as usual".

Some shops have not suffered as much as others. Butcher Nick Hartswell said his regular customers were helping keep business up.

"It's not been a disaster but we have had a few quiet days," he said.

"We are quite lucky in that we have lots of regular customers that come in.

"We have lost out on a bit of passing trade."

Highways England project manager, David Marlow, said: “We do everything possible to plan and manage our work to minimise disruption and fully understand the concerns of businesses in Towcester.

“To help we have placed around 30 road signs in and around the area advising that businesses remain open.

“This essential improvement work, which we expect to complete next month, will lead to safer and smoother journeys on this stretch of the A5. In the meantime, we thank people for their patience.”