Budleigh roadworks - is the end finally in sight?

PUBLISHED: 13:23 12 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:49 13 June 2019

Tom Cavanagh outside his shop. Picture: Philippa Davies

Tom Cavanagh outside his shop. Picture: Philippa Davies

Philippa Davies

Trader says road closures and diversions for gas pipe work mean town centre businesses are 'bleeding to death' due to lack of customers

West Hill, Budleigh Salterton, will be subjected to phased closures. Picture: Dan WilkinsWest Hill, Budleigh Salterton, will be subjected to phased closures. Picture: Dan Wilkins

Over-running roadworks in Budleigh Salterton, which are causing misery for town centre traders, are finally due to finish next week, according to Wales & West Utilities.

The gas pipe replacement work, which has led to the main road into town being closed, was due for completion on June 5.

But the company moved that date to June 11, and now says it expects to complete the work on West Hill during the week beginning Monday, June 17.

One local trader, Tom Cavanagh from The Creamery in Fore Street, said businesses are 'bleeding to death' because the signage used in the road closures and diversions takes motorists completely out of the town centre.

The almost deserted main street on Monday, June 10. Picture: Philippa DaviesThe almost deserted main street on Monday, June 10. Picture: Philippa Davies

"There are road closures everywhere and diversions leading nowhere," he said. "If you follow the signs you just go round and round in circles, they make no logic.

"It's not the way that signage should be done. I'm a member of the Institute of Road Traffic Administration and I used to work on the highways for Wimpeys, so I know what I'm talking about."

He compared the road situation to 'an example of Escher's work' - the artist whose pictures depict optical-illusion walkways and staircases that lead back to their starting point.

The gas pipe work began in West Hill on March 25 and continued along Halse Hill, Meadow Road and Meadow Close. Phased road closures and traffic lights were used in West Hill, with the road closed completely at the junction with Little Knowle and Northview Road for the last phase.

One of the Road Closed signs on the main street. Picture: Tom CavanaghOne of the Road Closed signs on the main street. Picture: Tom Cavanagh

Mr Cavanagh said the traffic lights had not caused too many problems, but since the road closure signs went up in May, very few non-local motorists were finding their way into the town centre.

In a statement, Wales & West Utilities blamed 'engineering difficulties' for the over-run, and said traders who feel their business has been damaged by the work can apply for compensation. They have up to three months after the work's completion to make a claim, and can discuss it with the Customer Service Team on 0800 912 2999 or by emailing enquiries@wwwutilities.co.uk

The Wales & West statement in full, from Utilities Programme Controller for Budleigh Salterton, Roxanne Whittaker:

"We have been working in the West Hill area of Budleigh Salterton to upgrade more than 1km of old metal gas pipes to new plastic ones. This £165,000 investment is essential to keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses in the area and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future.

Barriers and road closure signs at the traffic lights on West Hill. Picture: Tom CavanaghBarriers and road closure signs at the traffic lights on West Hill. Picture: Tom Cavanagh

"Our work began on West Hill on 25 March and continued along Halse Hill, Meadow Road and Meadow Close. In agreement with Devon County Council, and to keep the local community, road users and our colleagues safe while we worked, phased road closures and traffic lights have been in place along West Hill throughout our work.

"We are now in the final phase of our work on West Hill, and to do this safely, we have closed West Hill at its junction with Little Knowle and Northview Road.

"In agreement with Devon County Council, a diversion route is in place along Exmouth Road, East Budleigh Road, Coastguard Road, Coastguard Hill, Marine Parade, South Parade, Fore Street and High Street.

"We are aware that some motorists have used roads such as Halse Hill, Links Road and Little Knowle. These are not part of our diversion route and some are private property. We'd urge motorists to follow our marked signs as much as possible to keep disruption to a minimum.

"We were expecting to complete our work last week (5 June), however, due to engineering difficulties we now expect to complete our work on West Hill next week (week beginning 17 June).

"We worked closely with Devon County Council to plan our work. Before starting, we wrote to all homes and businesses in the area letting them know what to expect. Our team have visited local businesses in the area to discuss the nature of the works and answer any questions they might have.

"We appreciate that while we work hard to keep disruption to a minimum, our work can impact on local businesses. Any local traders who feel their business has been adversely affected by our work can apply for compensation under the Gas (Street Works) Compensation for Small Businesses Regulations 1996. Businesses have up to three months after we have finished our work to make a claim. Business owners who feel they have been affected by our work can discuss a potential claim with our Customer Service Team on 0800 912 2999 or by enquiries@wwwutilities.co.uk.

"We know working on roads like these is not ideal, but this work really is essential to keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses in the area and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future. We're working hard to make sure that the work is completed as safely and as quickly as possible, and we really appreciate the patience of local people while we are working."

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