A business owner in a suburban part of Manchester has spoken out about being left frustrated by an overrunning active travel project, which will see a new £13.4 million cycleway laid, claiming that "Christmas is ruined".
The Chorlton to Manchester cycle route will be part of the city's Bee Network of active travel routes and has been under construction since February, Manchester City Council approving the multi-million pound project after proposals were extremely popular at consultation stage, 73 per cent of respondents expressing their support for the scheme.
However, the original September completion date for the works has come and gone, with the owner of one business on the route, Frankie Dyer of Barbakan Delicatessen, saying the new end date of December 22 is threatening to ruin Christmas trade.
Ms Dyer told the Manchester Evening News there has been a "lack of communication" from the council and that footfall has dropped by 20 per cent due to the works, having a "massive negative impact on our business".
"There have been weeks of closed roads where there have been no workers anywhere," she said.
"All of this is having a massive negative impact on our business. We are fed up. People come from all over Greater Manchester to shop here — people aren't cycling in here from Bolton. We tell people 'good luck' when they ask us where to park. I've had to reduce staff hours, some people have left because we can't give them enough hours.
"This should be our busiest time of year but it's just been dead. If you're going to dig up a road, you should have the manpower to do it within the time frame you said. They have taken away dozens of car parking spaces and not given us an alternative when there's the same amount of, if not more, drivers on the road. There have been times when we haven't been able to get deliveries because our wagons can't get down the road or park here. Our bins haven't been collected on numerous occasions.
"There's been hardly any communication until last week when I asked again for support and updates. Even then, I just have apologies. I can't pay wages on apologies as I stare at an empty construction site. We deserve so much better than that.
"It's just a kick in the teeth after everything we've had to go through in the last few years as businesses. This is just something that we did not need to have to endure. And to say that it will be going on until December 22 is just a devastating blow. Christmas is basically ruined for us."
The council has urged locals to consider the benefits the completed scheme will bring, saying it will be a "hugely transformative project" for the area. It also said it had "engaged with residents and businesses to explain the works timeline, as well as address concerns or questions".
A council spokesperson said that while they appreciate how stressful the major infrastructure works could be, there had been regular communication through the Chorlton Traders Group and throughout the consultation.
A spokesperson said: "Before this project began the council published a consultation which set out to residents and businesses which were proposed, as well as allowing them a chance to comment on any potential issues. It was made clear that a number of parking bays would have to be removed or relocated to ensure that cycle lanes could be properly installed.
"This is directly linked to a new policy set out by the council at the beginning of the year, which put bold strategies in place looking at how we could accelerate the city's transition to more environmentally friendly modes of transport. Of course, we sympathise with anyone experiencing disruption due to this work but as with any major infrastructure project there may be delays or issues that arise during its course.
"The works are on course to be completed by the end of the year, only slightly behind the original end date of September, supported by additional work crews the council has assigned specifically to ensure that it is completed on schedule."
And while Ms Dyer of Barbakan Deli had plenty of complaints about the delay, other business owners said they were thinking more long-term, Unicorn grocery co-operative director Kellie Bubble saying despite it having "felt like forever" the "end game is going to be a good thing for the future of Chorlton".
"If it can empower people to use their bikes more than that can only be great for everybody," she said. "I can totally relate to the pain being felt right now, it's taken much longer than we've all expected it to take but that doesn't take away from the gain that the whole community can have from this scheme.
"But it is certainly challenging times and I do feel for all the traders who are seeing the footfall change significantly when they're already struggling. It's hard."
Likewise, Chorlton Traders Association looked to the future, admitting that the area was "absolutely rammed with cars" even "before the work" and that it "just wasn't working".
"It was recognised that something needed to change on that. Traders will be concerned but, at the same time, having the cycle lane should be seen as a bonus to the district. At the moment, it's all pain with no gain but we're hoping the benefits will be seen soon enough," the association said.
The group acknowledged that there will be a loss of parking spaces, a concern for some business owners, but said the long-term aim should be to encourage people to visit the area by foot or bike, reducing car use. The council says it was made clear at the consultation stage that these spaces would be lost or relocated.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.