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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Wigton High Street to close for two months

Wigton High Street is to close for two months for major gas system upgrade works.

Jane Hollick photo
Jane Hollick

Engineers will start to replace ageing metal mains on Monday as part of a £340,000 programme.

A businesswoman has warned that the closure will be difficult for traders at what’s already a challenging time of year.

All shops in third of a mile stretch of High Street will remain open while Northern Gas Networks carries out the work. And it’s paying for free parking in the Water Street car park from 8am until midday for eight weeks, also starting Monday, to help ensure shops don’t lose out on business.

Matthew McBride, Northern Gas Networks’ site manager, said: “We endeavour to keep the impact our work has on local businesses to an absolute minimum and we will use site signage to reinforce the message that businesses in the area are open as usual.

“We hope that free parking in the town centre will encourage residents to continue to do their shopping in Wigton throughout the duration of our work.”

Businesses and shops line the street, which leads to the monument in the centre of town.

The entrance to Thomlinson Junior School is on West Road, along with Wigton Methodist Church.

Mike Bryceson, from John Eastons Newsagent in the high street, said: “It will affect us, not with deliveries but with the number of customers coming in as people tend to stay away from the town centre.

“I don’t think the first phase will be as bad but the second phase will see the top end of the town cut off from the bottom end.

“I think it will be a problem but I understand the work needs to be done – I just wish it didn’t have to be done all at once.”

A worker at Toad Hall home furnishings and gifts in the high street added: “If they made the car park free it might keep people in the town but we don’t know how badly it will affect us yet.”

Jane Hollick is secretary of Wigton Chamber of Trade, a member of regeneration group Town Team and part-owner of Bron-ja, a shop on High Street.

She said: “It’s going to make it more difficult and January is generally quite a quiet month anyway.

“It’s quite worrying and we’ll have to do as well as we can, but I think it will affect businesses.

“Any obstruction stops people shopping and doesn’t help – it’s a very long time and it’s going to be very difficult.”

Cumbria County Council has made an order specifying that the road will close in two phases.

The first is from High Street’s junction with the B5302 West Street, extending south-east for 230 metres towards Proctor’s Square.

The second is from Proctor’s Square, extending south-east for just under 300 metres to the junction with the B5305 Lowmoor Road.

No vehicles will be able to use the road, but routes will be available for pedestrians and cyclists.

Mrs Hollick said that the closure would affect Bron-ja particularly badly, because it relied on wedding clothes and accessories being sold in January and February.

She said: “They are two of our busiest months and we are worried that it’s going to put people off.

“We are going to put it on our website and there isn’t a lot else we can do.”

Mrs Hollick added that she hoped signs would be put up explaining that businesses on the street are still open.

Diversions will be put in place to allow vehicles to navigate through the town using alternative routes.

The upgrade project to ensure a reliable supply of gas will see the old metal pipes replaced with plastic ones.

Northern Gas Networks say the road closure is needed to ensure people’s safety.

Mr McBride added: “We would like to take this opportunity to apologise in advance for any inconvenience this essential work may cause and thank everyone for their patience and support.”

The closure comes shortly after a local shopping campaign was hailed as a success by businesswoman Clare Stabler.

Wigton’s Totally Local Campaign (TLC) aims to encourage people to shop local and give a boost to independent retailers.

So far 52 businesses have signed up to the scheme, which gives customers a loyalty stamp with each purchase.

Once they have collected 10 stamps they can enter a competition to win gift vouchers each month.

Anyone with concerns can contact Northern Gas Networks’ customer care team on 0845 634 0508 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am and 5pm on Saturdays.

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