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Trade fears over gas work disruption in Holt town centre

PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 March 2014

Gas works in Holt closing off the centre of the town. Photo: Bill Smith

Gas works in Holt closing off the centre of the town. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Traders in an historic market place have blamed a recent lack of customers on long-running gas work which they claim has left the town centre deserted.

Michael Baker MD of Bakers and Larners shop in Holt.Michael Baker MD of Bakers and Larners shop in Holt.

Part of Holt Market Place has been closed off to motorists since February 10 because the National Grid have replaced old metal gas mains with plastic pipes, which involved digging up the road.

Despite being accessible via diversions, the normally busy car parks have been “quiet”, according to the business community.

The National Grid improvements have finished and resurfacing work is due to be completed tomorrow, according to a spokesman.

Michael Baker, managing director of CT Baker which includes Bakers and Larners of Holt, said: “There is no urgency to get the work done. If it was out in the countryside that is one thing, but you would have thought they would have made every effort to do the work as quickly as possible in the centre of a town. It has been an absolute disaster for trade. The place has been like the Mary Celeste.”

He understood why the work was getting done but said the energy giant had “ignored the business community” of Holt.

Mr Baker, county councillor for the town, said the number of vehicles in the Bakers and Larners car park was 30pc down and delivery lorries could not get near the shop because of holes in the yard. “We can stand this disruption but there are plenty of businesses in the town that cannot afford to withstand something like this,” he added. Signs saying the town centre was closed were changed during the early stages of work to let motorists know car parks were open.

Mr Baker added the diversions via Cromer Road, Station Road and the A148 were confusing and difficult for some motorists.

Sarah Emmett, co-owner of House and Garden Shop, said: “Everybody is really cheesed off. I know it is essential work but other things have to be taken into account. The last few days have been particularly quiet. We rely on passing trade.”

Another town centre trader, Michael Lane, managing director of Lanes Jewellery, said: “Our footfall for February seems to be down. There are definitely fewer people about. The work seems to be dragging on.”

He added there were no complaints about a lack of car parking, which was usually the case.

National Grid authorising engineer Vince Doggett said: “We are sorry for any disruption caused by this project; however, this is essential work that will help keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses for many years into the future.

“Every effort will be made to minimise any inconvenience to the local community.”

The section of Market Place between Bakers Court and White Lion Street is currently closed to through traffic but is open for access to premises and car parks only.

Have you been affected by the gas work in Holt town centre? Email reporter sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

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