TRADERS ANGRY AT ROADWORKS

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TRADERS in Henley are feeling frustrated after losing pre-Christmas shoppers due to roadworks.

The town centre was clogged with traffic while work took place on traffic lights in Hart Street from Monday last week until Tuesday afternoon this week.

Queues built up in New Street back to Fair Mile and on Greys Road as well as on Remenham Hill and Wargrave Road on the other side of Henley Bridge.

Shopkeepers said the congestion put off shoppers and the town was unusually quiet over the weekend when it is usually busy with festive shoppers. They asked for more notice of roadworks in the future.

Laurence Morris, who runs Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, said he had lost almost half of his expected trade on Saturday.

He said: “It’s totally unacceptable and there was no notice given. I drive in from Twyford and the 20-minute journey took me over an hour. The impact on business has been huge. My business is normally very busy on a Saturday in the period leading up to Christmas but I was almost 50 per cent down thanks to the traffic and people not being able to get into Henley or who don’t want to queue.

“There are also roadworks outside Coppa Club in Sonning which is causing congestion so the two main ways to get into Henley are blocked at the same time, which is horrific.

“People think, ‘I will go to Henley today’ and get stuck in the queue and decide to turn around and go to Marlow instead. They won’t say, ‘Oh, I’ll go back to Henley next week’.

“We’re driving people away from our town as we can’t control traffic. I know that work needs to be done but it’s the planning and controlling of it.

“This work should have been designated as high priority to be done in the shortest amount of time.”

Joan Bland, who runs Asquiths Teddy Bear Shop in New Street, said: “Saturday was so quiet it was ridiculous for the period before Christmas.

“We’re losing money in stock and time and Henley looks like a ghost town. It’s obviously necessary to do essential work but there needs to be communication with retailers because it is the busiest time of year and they will have extra staff in.

“We’ve had an opportunity here for customers to come back after covid and this has been affected by the roadworks. These should have been done in January, not during the busiest time of year.

“There needs to be some form of communication. Why isn’t the council getting more involved in sorting this out?”

Riaan Badenhorst, senior art consultant at the Lemongrove Gallery in Duke Street, said: “It was a very, very quiet weekend. I had literally one person in on Sunday, which is unheard of.

“It was much the same on Saturday, which is normally my busiest day. I had about five people when normally I’d have five times that.

“People visiting are put off by traffic and a lack of parking. I understand if there’s work to be done but we didn’t know about this. If it’s urgent work in a central part of town then they need to get it done within 24 hours.”

David Rodger-Sharp, who runs jewellery shops in Duke Street and Bell Street and Lawlor’s the Bakers in Duke Street, said the traffic had made his staff and bread deliveries late.

He said: “The impact was more on the bakery business as we’re doing a huge amount of wholesale business.

“We had bread deliveries in Nettlebed and Marlow and it was taking two hours longer to drive. I was helping out this week and was turning up with people’s deliveries half an hour late.

“It’s mad that a single bit of work has caused this much chaos. Sometimes it would just be nice to know what they are doing so we can understand.”

Lorraine Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Reading Road and is a town councillor, said: “We had a very quiet weekend — probably the quietest Saturday in a long time — and we rely on our weekend trade.

“It’s very disappointing. Roadworks like this do put people off coming into town and then they don’t want to come back as they don’t want to sit in the queues.”

She said the town council had little say about when roadworks take place.

“We’d prefer for them to be at a better time and have a more cohesive work schedule,” she said.

“However, I don’t think councillors appreciate the impact on traders. These are still difficult times and we need all the help we can get.”

Zoë Ferreira, who runs the Henley Larder in Bell Street, said her businesses had not been affected but still thought there should have been more communication.

“That’s the main point of frustration for all the retailers,” she said. “There’s a general lack of communication between the council and retailers at the moment and that needs to be remedied.”

Craig Buckby, who started work as town centre manager this month, said he was contacting Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, as it was responsible for scheduling roadworks. He said: “They should have a year planner and I’m going to request that that is shared with us at the town council and that it is regularly updated in an email. We can then share that with traders.”

Mayor Sarah Miller said: “I do feel for the retailers. The traffic was terrible and I was stuck in it myself.

“There’s always something that needs to be fixed, whether it’s a burst pipe or a hole in the road.

“Some people might think, ‘Why don’t they do it at night’ and I agree but I don’t make the decisions on that.”

The work was carried out by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks.

A spokesman said: “To carry out this essential electricity network upgrade, engineers were working five days from 7am to 5pm.

“Timing of the work was agreed with the local council for road closures that would cause the least disruption.

“SSEN would like to apologise for any inconvenience experienced by customers and thanks them for their patience.”