Roadworks are killing Onchan village - say traders

DYING TRADE: Onchan business owners speak out

DYING TRADE: Onchan business owners speak out

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‘YOU are watching a village die.’

That’s the view of one Onchan business owner suffering as a result of the decision to close Main Road for five weeks while roadworks are carried out.

And Robin Kelly, who owns Hinton’s TV, Video and Audio, is not the only business person with major concerns about the closure. Others told the Manx Independent they had already had to lay off staff as takings have dropped by anything up to 60 per cent since the work began a week ago.

Main Road has closed to through traffic between the Manx Arms pub and Summerhill Road roundabout.

Diversions around the back of the village are in place, directing people to Shoprite’s store at Onchan Precinct.

Signs say businesses are open as usual.

The work will include footway reconstruction and ducting installation for the new traffic signals.

Pedestrian access will be maintained to all businesses and properties throughout. It is the third phase of major roadworks in the village and although this phase will finish in five weeks, further phases will mean the overall project will not be finished until the end of December.

‘We were supposed to be consulted but nobody turned up,’ said Mr Kelly. ‘The signage is appalling.

‘We’ve been here over 20 years. We were not expecting much at this time of the year because of the recession but with this it’s become a bit of a perfect storm.

‘We’ll weather it but only because of planning. I knew that one day something would happen but I didn’t know what.’

Mr Kelly said he had had to let one member of staff go.

He added: ‘I mean it, you can watch a village die here thanks to government, nobody’s interested. And I’ll tell you what, here’s a pearl of wisdom, Amazon won’t pay your wages.

‘I think what we are seeing is the future but it’s going to be a bit of a grim future.’

Manager of the Corkill’s garage Tracey Dentith said footfall had dropped by around 40 per cent and she had been forced to lay off two part-time staff and cut full-time staff’s hours by two each. She said the business had lost thousands of pounds already.

The diversion signage, she said, on the Douglas side of Onchan was unclear as it led people away from the roundabout and the forecourt.

She said she would be making further representations to the Department of Infrastructure.

Dave Connolly opened Village Meats four months ago.

‘It took me two months to get people to start coming back in (after the closure of the former butcher’s on the site) and then this,’ he said. ‘Last week was disastrous and this week hasn’t been any better.’

Mr Connolly said his takings were down by approximately one third, and said although he had received a letter informing him about the work, no-one from the DoI had been in to see him.

Pharmacist Haresh Measuria took over at Corkill’s Pharmacy six months ago and thought he’d weathered the difficult first few months in business.

‘It has devastated business in Onchan,’ he said. ‘We have built up the business and now we can’t offer the service that patients have started to expect. Patients find it difficult to get to us.’

As a result, the pharmacy has been doing more prescription collection and deliveries.

‘The number of people coming through the door, I’d say, is down by a good 50/60 per cent.’

Mr Measuria said he emailed the contact name on the letter sent out by the DoI only to get a message back saying they would be on leave until October 15.

Another member of staff visited the pharmacy to apologise for the disruption.

‘It was good of him to come in and face the music but “we are sorry” doesn’t pay the bills does it? The next step is perhaps to cut back on staff, it’s a vicious circle,’ he said, adding the business was bound to struggle now in the vital run up to Christmas period.

Mr Measuria queried why Shoprite was the only business mentioned by name on the diversion signage.

‘These five weeks are going to be hell,’ he said, thanking loyal customers for their support.

Graham and Jackie Fargher, of Fargher’s Newsagent, say they have fared better.

The previous phase of work saw fewer customers willing to walk into the village to use their shop but this latest phase has meant easier pedestrian access.

The couple also praised the DoI, which they said had worked with them.

Mrs Fargher said they had made representations to retain access to Kelvin Road, which runs alongside their shop and has disabled parking spaces, and this had been done.

Mr Fargher said he had had three site meetings with DoI staff.

He claimed some other businesses in the village had not engaged with the department.

‘To me that’s their own fault, if you are not going to be pro-active and protect your business,’ he said.

Director of highways Richard Pearson said that the DoI was between a rock and a hard place when it came to carrying out major vital roadworks as to do them without a road closure would leave the department open to prosecution for putting its workforce in danger.

He said advance warning was given and officers visited the businesses.

‘I’m nothing but sympathetic to the businesses,’ said Mr Pearson, adding the bigger picture of the state of the island’s roads had to be considered.

He said there was public demand to repair roads but complaints when they did the work.

He issued a plea for people to use the businesses in Onchan, even saying he had gone out of his way to fill up at the Total forecourt to show his support.

Addressing Mr Measuria’s question of why Shoprite was singled out on the signage, he said: ‘They are one of the biggest single retailers in the vicinity and we took more specific steps in regard to them, but there would be a limit to how many businesses we could list on the signs.’

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