Hornchurch shopkeepers tell of trading woe

�Struggling Hornchurch shopkeepers have urged Havering Council to postpone the town’s regeneration plans to give businesses “breathing space” after nearly a year of trading woe.

The revamp is due to start next month to improve the town, but businesses say the disruption will ruin them, after claiming months of chaos in the High Street and surrounding roads, has already driven custom down by half.

‘Very angry’

Hornchurch has suffered two long-running road and footpath works since the summer, including six months of water pipe replacement which ended just before Christmas.

Parts of the High Street were also closed for nearly a month from June while a damaged building was made safe. Now major gas works in Station Lane are planned to last until April, with the council’s regeneration scheme coming in the midst of it.

Alex Armstrong, chairman of Havering Chamber of Commerce, said: “Traders want the council to stop their regeneration plans to give them breathing space to recover from the past year. People are very angry – their livelihoods are hanging in the balance.”

The council said utility companies had been given 18 months’ notice to carry out repairs before the revamp, and it was unable to prevent these works being carried out.

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Cabinet member for community empowerment, Cllr Robert Benham, added: “Our improvement plan has been discussed at length with businesses.

“Its key aims are to improve safety, traffic flow, pedestrian and cycle access with more trees and flowerbeds to attract shoppers to the High Street.

“To minimise disruption, we have arranged for our work to be completed in two phases. The first phase of work will include new street lights, car park alleyway improvements and new footpaths.

“We do not expect road closures during our work and we will not be in the central part of the High Street until 2013. We will have a published number for information and a person on-site to answer questions during our works.”