Council slammed in free parking ‘snub’

Roadworks in Horncastle's High Street
Roadworks in Horncastle's High Street

Businesses in Horncastle have slammed East Lindsey District Council for refusing to introduce free car parking during major roadworks.

There have been calls to scrap parking charges during a seven week programme to replace the town’s outdated gas mains.

The National Grid started work on Monday, leading to the closure of High Street.

However, ELDC says it can’t abolish charges because of roadworks.

Instead, it issued a statement saying the town was “open for business as usual”.

That brought a stinging response from several shop owners.

Richard Barker, who owns Avant Garde, described ELDC’s stance as a “appalling and arrogant.”

Mr Barker, who is also a town councillor, recently announced he is closing his business and sited car parking issues as a main reason.

Now, he is warning other business could fold because of the roadworks.

Mr Barker told the News: “One day into the works and Horncastle is like a ghost town. We can all appreciate the work has to be done but I thought free parking was a very reasonable request.

“However, I can’t say I’m surprised by ELDC’s response.

“Quite honestly, it is appalling and arrogant.

“Businesses are already struggling. Look at the empty and boarded up shops but they (ELDC) don’t care.

“Every other business owner I have spoken to feels the same. It is a disgrace.”

One business owner, who did not want to be named, said: “We’re still struggling to make up for the road works on the Bull Ring a year ago and now we have been hit with this. Customers I spoke to were confused by the signs, especially on West Street.

“They didn’t know what was open or closed. Some cars were turning round and driving back out of town.

“Free parking would have helped but I suppose it was too much to ask.”

Shop worker Sarah Holt said trade was much quieter on Monday.

She added: “There’s not usually many people around, but it’s even quieter than usual. It was hardly worth opening.”

In a separate development, Jonathan White and Chris Wilkinson, owners of The Old Stables Coffee House, received a letter stating that the roadworks would start between February 17 and February 27 and would last for four weeks - despite roadsigns saying the works were due to start on February 9 and last for seven weeks.

They also said gas being cut off would lead to major problems.

Mr White said: “Initially we thought that a few people in the town were kicking up a fuss over nothing, but this letter has left us fuming.

“I appreciate the work needs to be done but we will be left with no heating, hot water and our hob won’t work.

“We have been told that we will have just 48 hours notice before our gas is shut off. How are we supposed to let customers know in advance that we won’t be open?

“We’re going to lose two days trade and we have been told that we can’t claim for loss of earnings because the guideline amount is for 28 days disruption”.

A spokesman for the National Grid confirmed work was due to start on Monday and they were unsure why a second letter with different dates was sent out.

She said businesses issues with supplies being shut off, should contact the National Grid.

He added: “Customers and business owners realise the work has to be done, and we don’t want to disrupt people where we can.

“There will be ‘gatekeepers’ at the roadworks to allow businesses to take deliveries.

“We want people to talk to us if they have any issues, that’s what we are here for.

“As for loss of earnings it’s not something that we can look into before the work has begun. Let us get started and then we can look at each case individually.”

Horncastle’s county councillor Bill Aron said: “I was really pleased to see the diversion routes were all clearly marked and traffic was flowing very well. All the car parks, including the Market Place, were open and accessible.”

“All the agencies are working together - the police, highways, the utilities and transportation Horncastle is very much open for business and visitors to the town are being welcomed as always.”

The work is being carried out in phases. Phases one and two involve the closure of High Street, phase three St Lawrence Street and phase four North Street.

Traffic is being diverted, mainly via Stanhope Road, while the town’s main bus stop has been temporarily re-located to North Street .