Sales down as Torquay traders fear closed Fleet Street is 'putting off customers'
TRADERS and shoppers have expressed frustration and concern at the extended closure of Torquay's Fleet Street.
Buses have been diverted while work takes place at the lower end of the street as part of the Torbay Council scheme to regenerate the shopping area.
Excavations uncovered 'unforeseen conditions' including high-voltage cables that must be protected, and the council agreed to extend the road closure until March 19.
Toy Sale owner Eddie Cochran said: "Any disruption to customers and traffic flow has an adverse effect on business.
"The work is putting off customers. Why would you want to come and shop in this environment?
"The work will be beneficial in the long run, but at this stage there needs to be a more concerted effort to get the job done. It's pathetically slow."
Pizza Hut manager Christiane Dyer said sales were down 20 per cent compared to last year.
She said: "People don't want to linger because the work isn't nice to look at. But it will be good to have a wider pavement and we are hoping to have tables outside."
At the other end of the street, Jane Cooper, of luggage and bag shop Bora, said she was 'worried sick' about her business.
She said: "Businesses are struggling and shutting and this isn't helping. It's frustrating to know the road will be closed for longer.
"It's affecting trade. My takings are down. Customers have said it's a mess and I have so many people asking where to get the bus from.
"It will look better afterwards, but it's taking too long.
"They should be pulling out all the stops to get things back to normal as soon as possible."
Brenton Tout, owner of Jade's Coffee House in Fleet Walk, doubted the regeneration scheme would encourage shoppers.
He said: "People come for the shops but several are closing which has a knock-on effect.
"Cheaper parking would get more people coming here."
Photographer Gary Stevens, 47, from the Wellswood area of Torquay, said: "The work is making it harder for people to manoeuvre easily. I don't think it's worth it.
"There are better things the money could be spent on."
Steve Winder, 51, from Leicester, has been visiting Torquay two or three times a year for the last 25 years.
He said: "I'm sure it will be very nice when the work is done, and it's better it's done now than in high season.
"There isn't the same variety of shops there used to be and it's a shame to see so many closed but I still like the area."
Valerie Foster, 78, from Newton Abbot, who visits Torquay twice a week to shop, said the work was necessary.
She said: "The road needed levelling out, so people have to put up with the work. I've almost tripped a couple of times."
Cllr Robert Excell, executive lead for safer communities and transport, said it was 'unfortunate' the street needed to remain closed for longer than anticipated.
He said: "It is important to remind people that shops and businesses remain open, with full access maintained for pedestrians.
"We are confident the contractors and various utility companies will do everything they can to resolve all the issues as quickly as they can.
"This will include the contractors working on Saturdays and potentially bringing in extra people at the appropriate time.
"Despite this unforeseen extra work, we hope that the widely welcomed scheme, which forms the first phase of a proposed £2.5million revamp in Fleet Street, will still be completed by the middle of June."