Otterton road work row

Otterton Mill co-owner Caroline Spiller claims BT roadworks have caused a dip in custom. The telecom giant says measures were taken to prevent any disruption to local businesses.

An Otterton businesswoman claims ongoing road works are driving custom away – causing a drop in trade.

Caroline Spiller, co-owner of Otterton Mill, said the mill had suffered a 25 per cent downturn in trade since British Telecom began upgrading underground cables on the main Otterton to Sidmouth road at the end of January. Mrs Spiller believes road closed signs are confusing customers into believing the village is unreachable.

She said: “There is a large electronic sign at the main road, followed by two ‘road ahead closed’ signs in the road well before you enter Otterton. These suggest to drivers that the village is inaccessible.

“We’ve observed cars turning around at this point, rather than venturing further.

“Customers have also been telling us all week that the signs are misleading and they weren’t sure if we would be open.”

British Telecom said the essential work, which began on January 31 and will last until March 11, was being carried out with as little disruption as possible.

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A spokesman for the telecom giant said measures had been put in place in a bid to deflect any disruption locally.

The spokesman said: “We have been working with this customer to try to reduce any impact on her business. We have put out several ‘business open as usual’ signs’.

“We have tried to make the signs as visible as possible in order to restrict any impact on local businesses.

“We have to carry out this work. It’s an important part of upgrading the network.”

Mrs Spiller said the new signs had been put in place a week after she daily contacted BT’s contractors.

She said: “This will obviously help but it has taken a week of lobbying to get to this point.

“Whilst the contractor has been receptive to my request, I feel very frustrated and angry at how the closure has been managed and the lack of advance consideration given to local businesses and employers during what is already a very difficult winter trading period.

“So far, we have been notified of a two week road closure, but I have now been advised, verbally, that the closures will continue for up to six weeks.”

Otterton can be reached from the B3178 Budleigh Salterton to Newton Poppleford road.