STALYBRIDGE businesses took a massive financial hit as the town’s roads became gridlocked throughout August due to the closure of part of Stamford Street.
The chaotic scenes on the roads and suffering endured by motorists as Electricity North West replaced old cabling was nothing compared to the pain suffered by shopkeepers.
Many reported a sharp drop in takings and that had an impact on jobs, with a number lost.
Brenda Brooks, who runs Stalybridge Post Office, has been forced to lay off staff after the business lost a third of its income in August.
And Brenda admitted the future of the town centre’s only post office was even under threat.
She explained: “Our profit margins are really tight and that was before we lost one third of our income due to the roadworks. It is that bad it could force us to close which would be bad for the town as people come here and then go elsewhere to shop.
“Normally we are a busy post office and, whereas we normally have five staff in on Monday, we have been managing with two. The town was dead while the roadworks took place and it is disgraceful.
“I have made to finish one member of staff completely and send others home, including my son.”
Stalybridge Post Office employed seven, including Brenda, her daughter Leah and son Conrad.
Brenda, who estimated the post office lost between 100 and 200 customers each day, adding they are only paid for the work they do.
She has also met with Electricity North West officials to discuss her issues, describing it as “an absolute waste of time”.
Peter Taylor, from electrical contractor E Taylor & Son, described the turnover at his shop in the second week of August as “probably the worst in the last 20 years”.
He heard many horror stories including one of his customers from Mottram Rise who spent one-and-a-half hours to make the return trip to pay a bill.
Peter, himself, took 25 minutes to get home to Hough Hill when he says he could have walked in 10 minutes.
He added the town became even more gridlocked in the third week of the roadworks when a new four-way traffic signal system was put in place at the junction of Acres Lane and Mottram Road.
Peter, who is a leading figure in Stalybridge Business Forum that is part of Stalybridge Town, added: “A lot of businesses were down a lot of money.
“When you took at the impact the roadworks have had on people, you can understand why they are not coming into the town.”
He was also critical of local councillors, saying: “No councillor has tried to help – they have all disappeared and we have not heard from any of them since the work started.”
Linda Adshead, who has run the Food2Go café on Stamford Street for 12 years, estimated her turnover halved during August.
She said: “Much of my business comes from through traffic so that disappeared.
“Quite a lot also comes from firms on Knowl Street but, when they have been delayed in traffic, they don’t have time to come out at lunchtime.”
Linda added she experienced difficulties with delivery drivers getting to her café while it was also a challenge knowing what to order to prevent waste.
Cathy Oakford, who has run Mottram Road Stores for 30 years, estimates her turnover dropped by a third in August.
“People can’t and won’t stop once they are in a queue so they are not coming in,” she said.
Leisure Grass Uk Ltd reported business has been “very quiet”.
“Normally we get a lot of footfall, but most of it disappeared. It has been so quiet we have been closing at 4pm as opposed to 5pm,” explained Jean Powell.
Hairdressers Pat Platt and Alison Collins, from Waves and Curls, say their main issue has been people arriving late for appointments after being delayed in the traffic jams.
Traders on Melbourne Street have also been hit hard with Karen Goodson, from Say Cheese, saying her income has dropped by between 20 and 30 per-cent.
Karen, a trader for 30 years, added: “It has been a nightmare and a lot of elderly people are not coming into the town, but going to little shops near where they live.
“I am doing shopping for elderly people as they can’t get out because they don’t know when the buses will arrive.”
Karen added it took her 35 minutes to take her mother barely a quarter of a mile from Tesco’s car park to a hairdressers’ appointment at Waves and Curls.
She also pointed out the road chaos was made worse by further roadworks on Huddersfield Road close to the junction with Stamford Street.
“I appreciate the work had to be done, but the traffic management has been totally disorganised,” she pointed out.
Tony Lewis, manager at Mettricks butchers, reckoned their turnover was down 40 per-cent in August.
“We normally have 200-250 customers on Saturday, but it was down to about 140. The roads were chaotic and it took one customer 45 minutes just to get off the car park at Tesco’s,” he said.
Corinne Lavis, from greengrocers 5 a Day, said: “Friday and Saturday are always busy, but during August I was stood at the front door waiting for customers.
“I even had time to have lunch, something that normally doesn’t happen on Friday and Saturday.”
Corinne estimated trade was 30 per-cent down, adding: “Business was very bad in August.
“I know it was holidays, but it was slower than other years. It is difficult knowing what to buy. I am having to order less than usual and am having a lot more waste.”
Jessica Winterbottom, from The Chip Shop reported a 50 per-cent drop in takings on Friday tea-time which is traditionally the busiest time of the week.
“Normally customers are queueing outside the shop, but they are well down as people aren’t coming into town which is dead,” she explained.
While Tesco’s Stalybridge branch reported no significant fall in business, it faced a major issue with drivers using its car park as a cut through to get across town.
That resulted in the car park becoming gridlocked and the supermarket putting up extra signs saying it was no through road.
Store manager Andrew Schofield praised Electricity North West who he said had been working with them since February to keep them informed about developments. He added their officials had been at the store handing out leaflets.
• WORK on Stamford Road, Stalybridge, was completed on Friday, August 24 – one week ahead of schedule.
Engineers from Electricity North West are replacing 7.4km of underground power cable, which has been powering the area since the 1960s, with new updated and environmentally-friendly electricity cables.
John Pietsch, transmission south manager for Electricity North West, said: “We know that although we’ve worked hard to keep disruption to a minimum, digging up and closing roads is never easy for local residents and businesses so we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their patience and support to allow us to carry out this work safely and ahead of time.”
Engineers continue onsite on Huddersfield Road until the end of September, with temporary traffic lights will be in place and the flow of traffic will be monitored closely.