Relief as High Street re-opens

Dereham's High Street has reopened after emergency gas works caused gridlock and a drop in trade for businesses. On Monday roads around the town centre were full of frustrated drivers battling through diversions.

Dereham's High Street has reopened after emergency gas works caused gridlock and a drop in trade for businesses.

On Monday roads around the town centre were full of frustrated drivers battling through diversions.

Traders were furious because nobody told them what was going on and “business open as usual” signs were not put out.

The road was closed after a possible gas leak was reported on Sunday.

It was thought the road would be shut until Thursday but after the leak was found, National Grid was able to re-open the High Street.

Paul Sandford, owner of Joint Effort Health and Fitness, in the High Street, said: “What has happened is absolute chaos. We were hardly told anything and there were no signs letting people know we are open. I was even told I should make the signs myself.

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“Normally we have about 100 people at the gym on Monday but yesterday there was hardly anybody and nobody came in on Sunday.”

Stephen Cross, chairman of the Dereham Chamber of Trade and Commerce, branded communication between National Grid and local businesses a “disaster”.

He said: “The mistake is not that they closed the road but it is the lack of communication. It was disappointing businesses were not told what happened and that signage has been poor.

“For those who have talked about making areas of Dereham into pedestrian zones, what happened shows how important the roads are to the town.”

Julie Dougal, manager of Stead and Simpson in the High Street, said: “On Sunday it was absolutely dead here. Today our delivery men were pulling their hair out because they are having to park in the Market Place and walk with the stock.”

Bull landlady Debra Blake said: “A lot of our customers are elderly people that drive in and yesterday they all stayed at home. Fortunately all the staff could walk in.”

Sarah Wilcox, from National Grid, said: “When we have a planned excavation we are able to inform people in advance. However this was an emergency. We apologise for any inconvenience we have caused but our main priority was to fix the gas leak.”