Bridge repairs will ruin us, say traders

Businesses in Lowestoft claim they could be heading for bankruptcy amid fears that the refurbishment of the bascule bridge could continue until Easter.

Businesses in Lowestoft claim they could be heading for bankruptcy amid fears that the refurbishment of the bascule bridge could continue until Easter.

The Highways Agency announced last week that the £2.3m maintenance project would not be completed on schedule after some of the bridge's mechanical parts were found to be in a worse condition than earlier thought.

The planned closure from December 1-4 was postponed to give traders some respite ahead of three extra 58-hour closures scheduled for early 2008.

But it emerged last night that the town's landmark crossing will be shut for six consecutive nights starting on Wednesday to enable repairs to the hydraulic system in preparation for the additional work.

The delays spelled further frustration for some of the town's traders, who claimed a “dramatic” loss of revenue during the closures.

Katy and Neil Prentice, who own Scores Restaurant in the High Street, launched a petition on behalf of the small businesses which draw most of their income from Saturday evening trade, asking for future closures to be made on weekdays rather than weekends

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“Sunday trade was reduced to zero,” said Mrs Prentice. “It wasn't a case of a lull, it shut the town totally down.

“The service industry is one of the biggest providers in the town with pubs, restaurants and taxi drivers.

“We appreciate that the bascule bridge needs to be finished but there's been no consideration for the businesses which rely on weekends and unsociable hours.”

A meeting was held this week between project organisers the Highways Agency, Waveney District Council, Suffolk County Council and Network Rail after it emerged that both the county council and the rail company had to delay works around Station Square while maintenance work on the bridge was carried out.

Paul Moss, project manager for the Sunrise Scheme at Waveney District Council, said he believed there were a number of options being considered for the work to be finished, but further discussions were needed before a final decision was made.

Highways Agency project manager Roger Chenery said details of the extra closures would be released as soon as they had been agreed.

The bascule bridge will be closed from 8pm to 6am from Wednesday, December 5 to Monday, December 10.

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