'Poor road signs are costing my business thousands of pounds'

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John and Elaine Parkinson
John and Elaine Parkinson

The owner of an award-winning cafe gallery and puppet theatre says inadequate road closure signs have had a devastating effect on his business.

Cumbria County Council is overseeing work to resurface a stretch of main road at Sebergham but traffic signs at either side of the B5305 are deterring visitors who want to visit Upfront Gallery, says owner John Parkinson.

He said that over the last three weeks while the work has been going on, Upfront Gallery has lost at least £5,000 in custom as a result.

Mr Parkinson has become so frustrated by what he says is a failure of the county council to improve the signs that he has written his own version of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, comparing his business to the stranded heroine.

To the east along the B5305, signs on the northbound M6 tell drivers that the B road is closed and there are diversions via junction 44 at Carlisle.

Two signs on the motorway’s junction 41 roundabout tell drivers the road is closed at Sebergham, but only one of these includes a notice stating that businesses are “open as usual”.

Three or four miles along the B5035, near Hutton-in-the-Forest, motorists are confronted by yet another sign, boldly stating “Road closed”, with the name Sebergham added, along with a diversion arrow pointing to a back road towards Carlisle.

Yet another sign, three minutes’ drive along the B5305 and near to the turn-off for Upfront Gallery, another sign says the road is closed at Sebergham, with a supplementary notice saying businesses are open.

“It would be a miracle if anybody gets that far,” said Mr Parkinson.

At the western side of the B5305 near Wigton, motorists are directed through a series of diversions north via Carlisle and the M6, involving a trek of more than 50 miles ultimately leading to Penrith via junction 40.

From there motorists are left to their own devices, said Mr Parkinson.

He said that every day he now gets calls from frustrated and angry would-be visitors who have been left utterly confused by the signs. Some have become so fed up that they abandoned their planned visit.

A better diversion plan and more efficient signage – telling visitors his business is still accessible – would solve the problem, said Mr Parkinson.

“I appreciate they need to upgrade the road at Sebergham, but it’s obvious that the signage, and diversion planning for this work just hasn’t worked. It’s the duty of the council to carry out this work with due diligence. But they haven’t.

“Their road closed signs on the Penrith side assume visitors know where Sebergham is. If you don’t know we’re before Sebergham you won’t know that there’s still access.

“From the other direction, at Wigton, the diversion is huge, and brings you back to the Penrith side. If they travel back up the motorway they would find the signs saying that the B5305 is closed.

“If it’s impossible to get to a business because of inadequate pre-planning or signage then the council are not giving due regard to the consequences of their action.”

He said the diversions were so huge because council officials were barred from sending motorists along more minor back roads.

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said: “The council makes every effort to keep disruption to a minimum, to put in place appropriate signage and to notify all local residents and businesses in advance of works commencing.

“These resurfacing works on the B5305 are scheduled to be completed on Friday July 14, following which all advisory signage will be removed.”

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