Time running out for traders - claim

At least 10 businesses in Lowestoft are in danger of closing following months of disruptive roadworks, it was claimed, as efforts were stepped up to seek compensation.

At least 10 businesses in Lowestoft are in danger of closing following months of disruptive roadworks, it was claimed, as efforts were stepped up to seek compensation.

The bleak picture was painted by a man spearheading a bid by 50 town-centre traders to win compensation for loss of earnings caused by roadworks during the Sunrise regeneration scheme and other projects.

Richard Neal, of the Wherry estate agents, spoke as Waveney District Council insisted it remained committed to staging a meeting with shopkeepers to discuss their concerns.

Mr Neal, who revealed he would only be giving the council a short time to discuss their demands regarding compensation before he would press for court action, said: “We have been trying to give the council a chance to meet with us about compensation, but I have got a litigator on standby. If there is no answer, we will prepare for court action. I would say at least 10 companies are thinking of shutting their doors.

“Compensation is now paramount. The council made a statement saying they were willing to help us, but so far they have done nothing.”

The bitter row took another twist this week when it was suggested that Waveney MP Bob Blizzard would not be invited to any meeting between the council and traders. Mr Blizzard, who has been a strong supporter of the shopkeepers' plight and who also started a petition demanding a period of free parking to entice shoppers back to Lowestoft, said: “Perhaps the council should take more notice of the message, rather than focus on the messenger.

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“If it is the case that they don't want to include me in a meeting, it is a childish response as we all have to work together to tackle what is a very serious problem.”

Council leader Mark Bee said the issue of compensation and roadworks would be addressed in a letter sent shortly to traders who signed the petition.

“Nevertheless, we remain committed to meeting with the traders to discuss their concerns and, following the first meeting of the new car parks working group earlier this week, it was agreed that such a meeting should be arranged at everyone's earliest convenience,” he added.

Mr Bee added he would not prevent the MP from attending, but was keen to avoid Mr Blizzard using the situation as a political platform at the traders' expense.

Shops involved in the campaign include Godfrey's, In Time, Weigh and Save, Cooks Furnishers, Chadds, Jarrold's and Marks and Spencer.

Sally Spore, the leader of the opposition Labour group, has requested that the issue be referred to the council's scrutiny committee's next meeting for investigation.

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