Shaftesbury open for business as usual
TRADERS in Shaftesbury are urging shoppers to ignore misleading road signs and return to the town.
According to local businesses, signage put up during ongoing road works is giving visitors the impression that the town is shut.
Although the High Street is closed to vehicles at the junction with Muston Lane, pedestrian access is unrestricted and shops are doing their best to maintain business as usual.
Dorset Highways is repairing works carried out as part of the town's enhancement scheme. Subsided cobbled areas at "the narrows" are being fixed and the authority has also removed a traffic calming hump on Salisbury Street, which was installed without consent from Shaftesbury Town Council.
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The works, which began on 8th October, were delayed when contractors encountered a leaking water main close to the surface of the road on the High Street two days after starting.
Progress was delayed as Dorset County Council and Wessex Water tried to work out a way forward but works resumed on Monday and it is hoped that the road will be open to traffic by the end of the month.
Charlie Turnbull of Turnbull's cheesemonger, coffee house and bistro on Shaftesbury High Street said the works were having a serious impact on trade.
"Weekday trade is down 20 per cent, which is unacceptable," he said.
"This is the most important part of our year. We can not afford a threat to the Christmas trading period.
"The signs are giving the wrong impression. There is still access for shoppers and it's the best parking opportunity people could possibly have."
Sue Neely of Dorset Store gift and home accessory shop added: "The car parks are still operating so it's just a false perception that the town is closed.
"The signage is dreadful but it's business as usual. The shops are open and there are parking spaces everywhere."
Shaftesbury town councillor John Lewer said he was disappointed that the disruption had been drawn out by the failure to make early provisions for the water main.
"I am most disappointed at the disconnected relationship between Wessex Water and the highways authority. They have dug up the road before so I can't believe they were unable to know about the water main and plan properly," he said.
"The works were agreed in June. It is a big mess because Dorset County Council didn't plan ahead.
"There is also no explanation as to why they walked away from Salisbury Street without finishing properly. They have left it with a temporary surface which is open to vehicles and passable with care."
Reiterating the message to shoppers, Mr Lewer said: "Pedestrian access is unchanged and the car parks are open. There is no reason why people shouldn't visit Shaftesbury."
A spokesman for Dorset County Council said: "When we investigated beneath the road, we found a shallow water main that was leaking. We have now gained permission from Wessex Water to encase the water main in concrete and work resumed on the road on Monday. We are aiming to complete the repairs by the end of the month."