United Utilities has agreed to donate £50,000 to help attract shoppers back to Lancaster following the traffic disruption in the city during sewer works.
The firm said the £18m essential work is on schedule for completion at the end of November.
But at a meeting between United Utilities and key stakeholders including Lancaster City Council, Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce and Stagecoach, proposals where discussed in a bid to keep residents shopping local during the final six weeks of work and beyond.
Dawn Harrington from United Utilities said: “Before we even put a spade in the ground our aim has always been to inform and support Lancaster as much as we can during this massive engineering project.
“To date we have spent more than £140,000 on a number of activities which have included public drop-in exhibitions, radio and newspaper adverts, as well as sponsoring Lancaster’s flagship cycle race, which over the past couple of years has created a fantastic buzz in the city.
“That said, we do understand how frustrating this final phase of work has been.
“We are therefore handing over another £50,000 to Lancaster Unlimited – the city’s Business Improvement District (BID).
“Rather than United Utilities deciding how this money should be spent, we want local businesses and members of the public to make suggestions on how this can be used to attract shoppers back to the city.”
Managing director of The Bay, Bill Johnson, who is on the BID management committee, said: “We’ll all be able to work on some great initiatives to benefit local shops and services.”
Vicky Lofthouse, manager of Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is important to state that the idea of free car parking that was previously suggested hasn’t been agreed but will be put forward as an idea.
“However, the Chamber has been inundated with alternative suggestions on how to improve the current traffic situation in Lancaster.
“We would hugely welcome further suggestions as to how we can make the most of the fantastic opportunity offered.”
Frustrated motorists and commuters will also welcome the news that during the part closure of the one way system, other utility companies and the council are carrying out essential maintenance and improvement work to avoid any further road closures in the near future.
The water company has also promised to continue to monitor the traffic management, and new signage could be put in place to further improve the traffic flow.
During the project United Utilities has also been running a community fund. People in Lancaster have already benefited with up £22,000 awarded to community groups so far.
These include Lancaster Tennis Club, St John’s Hospice, The Fairfield Association and Grace Baptist Church.
United Utilities say the £50,000 will not affect individual claims for loss of business.
A spokesman said: “Under the Water Industry Act we are obliged to compensate businesses for loss of profit which is directly attributable to the works being carried out. This needs to be supported by the appropriate financial documentation.
“If we receive the required financial information from a business, compensation will be considered to minimise the financial impact placed upon them.”