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Road scheme wrecks Leicester indie trade

Sales at Leicester-based indepen-dents have plummeted by more than 50% on the back of major development works in the city centre, threatening the future of some retailers.

Roadworks have been in progress since last June to pedestrianise the city centre. This has restricted shopper access to many indies, causing a dramatic drop in footfall.

Tamsin Straiton, director of Polly’s on St Martin’s Square, said trade had dipped by 40% since renovation works began. “The town is a building site and people struggle to get to where we are,” she said. “If things don’t improve, I don’t see how we can survive.”

Tom Brown, owner of Irish Clothing, a two-store business on the High Street, has joined other retailers to lobby the council for a business rate cut on the back of the work. “We’re fortunate that we own our buildings and can wait it out,” he said.He added that he was aware of the planned works after attending local council meetings, so had adjusted his business plan accordingly, reducing both stock levels and staffing.

Jo Holmes, manager of Insanity Clothing Company on Cank Street, received a notification of the roadworks, only to find that the relocation of a lamp-post outside his store would block access for three days. “We complained to the council, which knocked off a week’s rent,” he said.

City centre development project manager Barry Pritchard said consultation on the scheme took place up to a year before work began. “No matter how much notice you give people, this type of work will always cause disturbance,” he said. “We have found elsewhere that the more notice you give people about the work, the more problems can be created.”

Disruption is set to continue throughout the summer, with the High Street, Carts Lane and Cheapside due to be repaved in August.
The recently-pedestrianised Loseby Lane will also be resurfaced, with work scheduled to begin in March. It is likely to last for three weeks.

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