Shopkeepers frustrated at city centre rejuvenation

Esquires Coffee House owner Edward Oldfield is unhappy with the lack of information businesses have been told about the ongoing street work.
Esquires Coffee House owner Edward Oldfield is unhappy with the lack of information businesses have been told about the ongoing street work.

Business owners in Lancaster city centre say they have suffered a huge drop in trade since work started as part of a major rejuvenation scheme.

Under the Square Routes project, Cheapside is currently being resurfaced while Market Square is also due to be refurbished.

Work is due to end in late July.

As a result of the work, sections of Cheapside have been fenced off, and the Charter Market and other pitches have also been relocated to Church Street and New Street as required.

While business owners admitted the work was needed to help revitalise the city centre, they said it had badly affected takings.

Tony Dodgson, director of Studio Arts in North Road, said: “It’s necessary work and we appreciate it being done, but it has noticeably affected trade. Some have said it’s hard getting into town and it’s putting them off.”

Ann Lomas, area manager of the British Heart Foundation charity shop in Cheapside, said the store had suffered from a drop in donations as well as customers.

She said: “It’s not just affecting us as far as trade is concerned; we depend on people donating their unwanted items and they will go to another shop if it’s easier to get there.

“Some people are loyal to us and will make the effort but many others will look to somewhere easier. No one is arguing with them making an improvement because that’s for everyone’s benefit, but trade has been absolutely appalling; we are probably a quarter down.”

And in the premises next door, Terri Armstrong, manager of the Scope Lancaster charity shop, said they were also losing out through donations.

She said: “We are not getting the footfall; people aren’t coming in to browse and we are losing customers and donations.

“I appreciate the work has got to be done, but we are not even seeing some of our regular customers. People have said they won’t come into town while the work is going on.”

Edward Oldfield, owner of Esquires coffee house in Cheapside, said he was frustrated by delays in the work which meant it will now be continuing through some of his busiest months.

He said: “This has come at the worst possible time.

“We are already losing business from the bus station having been partially relocated because the footfall has dropped.

“It’s just one thing after another at the moment; it is soul destroying. People are not walking down this part of town because the access is so bad.”

Mr Oldfield will have to remove the outdoor seating from his coffee shop for several weeks while work takes place.

He said: “I think it’s right for Lancaster this is being done but it’s not being done with the co-operation of local businesses.”

St Nicholas Arcades centre manager Jerry North said: “It’s necessarily disruptive. We’ll grin and bear it because we’re all looking forward to the end result.

“We’ve had disruption at the main entrance at St Nicholas Arcades, but the plans are all very positive. We’re now waiting with bated breath for the designs of the Market Square feature as nobody knows quite what that’s going to look like.”

Coun Janice Hanson, city council cabinet member with responsibility for economic regeneration and planning, said: “In the long run businesses will benefit hugely from this £1m investment as it will strengthen the city centre’s position as a quality destination for visitors, residents and traders.

“It is vital we undertake this work if we are to secure the economic future of the city and we have sought to avoid the busier shopping periods such as the run-up to Christmas.

“We’re working hard to cause as little disruption as we can and talking to businesses in the vicinity of the works but if any businesses have comments or concerns we’d encourage them to get in touch direct with the main contractors, The Landscape Group, either by visiting the site office on Cheapside or by telephoning their customer care helpline on 0800 917 6263.

“Alternatively, please contact the Square Routes team on 01524 582629 or 582375 or email and they will be happy to help where possible.”