Contractors responsible for one of Horncastle’s biggest ever programme of roadworks have pledged: “We’ll try to keep the town open for business.”
The National Grid will started work today, February 10, on a seven week programme to replace most of the town centre’s gas mains.
The scale of the project means High Street, St Lawrence Street and North Street will be closed at various times.
Temporary parking restrictions will be introduced, along with temporary traffic lights. Vehicles - including lorries - will be diverted and bus stops moved while gas supplies to businesses and residential properties will be turned off.
That has led to fears the town will grind to a halt, with visitors staying away and businesses potentially losing thousands of pounds.
People living in Stanhope Road - the main diversion route - have described the extra traffic involved as an ‘accident waiting to happen.’
However, the National Grid is confident that after months’ of planning, disruption will be kept to a minimum.
Peter Cannon, the supervising engineer in charge of the project, told the News: “If we had a choice, we wouldn’t chose to do this work.
“However, we don’t have a choice. It has to be done. It’s heath and safety. The old gas mains have to be replaced.
“Even with the best laid plans, there will be problems. There will be disruption but we want to work with the people of Horncastle to cause as little disruption as possible.”
The gas mains will be replaced in a carefully planned phased project featuring:
*Phase 1 - High Street, from the junction with North Street to the junction with St Lawrence Street
*Phase 2 - High Street, from the St Lawrence Street Junction to the Church Lane junction
*Phase 3 - St Lawrence Street/Market Place in front of the Post Office
*Phase 4 - North Street, from the junction with High Street to the junction with Conging Street.
During the work on High Street, the town’s main bus stop will be moved to outside the Old War Memorial Hospital at the top of North Street.
Contractors estimate each phase will take between one and two weeks to complete, depending on the amount of work involved.
Parking will be banned on Stanhope Road during the diversion period. That could affect neighbouring St Lawrence School and Horncastle Primary School.
The National Grid has pledged to do everything it can to retain access to town centre businesses for deliveries - and to residential properties.
Mr Cannon added: “The last thing we want is for people to think we’re going to come along with a great big JCB and rip up entire road surfaces.
“We’re hoping we can insert the new plastic pipe into the old steel pipe.
“That will involve digging ‘pits’ and then inserting the pipes.
“Until we actually put a shovel into the ground, we don’t know the amount of work that will be involved.
“We’ll also have to connect each property to the new main. Again, that will mean turning off gas supplies.
“We’re aware of the problems that will cause, especially for restaurants and cafe owners but my message to them is come and talk to us. Talk to me, talk to the guys doing the work and we will try and work things out together.”
Andrew Hall, a traffic management expert, admitted planning the various closures and diversion routes had been a logistical ‘nightmare.’
He explained: “Obviously, we will be closing main roads through Horncastle and there aren’t that many alternatives.
“Stanhope Road is pretty much the only option for diverting traffic. That’s not ideal but what else could we do?”
Mr Hall admitted there would be delays, particularly from traffic wanting to turn right out of Stanhope Road onto East Street.
He also said Louth Road would have to cope with extra parking, particularly at the start and finish of school days.