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Otley shopping street 'like the Marie Celeste' at some points
Otley businesses say Tour de France related roadworks have had a devastating impact on trade.
That is the verdict of shops on Westgate after two weeks of disruption that have seen the road completely closed from Monday to Thursday.
The roadworks were part of a programme of repairs to ensure the Tour de France route is in good condition – and had been organised to run from 9.30am to 3pm to avoid clashing with school and rush-hour traffic.
Westgate was also opened up again on Fridays to allow market day traffic to flow as normal.
But traders say those compromises made little difference to the huge drop-off in custom they suffered.
The owner of Harriet’s clothing store, Jane Thompson, said: “It has affected us really badly, we’ve been really quiet.
“Leeds City Council did send a letter saying the works were happening but didn’t say the road would be shut completely, and they haven’t even been letting people in to access their own shops or get deliveries.
“The council’s supposed to be helping small businesses, not killing them.”
The owner of Barber’s Tobacconist and Artamis Gifts, James Barber, said: “It’s been terrible and we’ve found the contractors to be quite rude when you’re trying to get access to your shop.
“The planning has been appalling, it’s been so badly organised. The work had to be done but there’s been a total disregard for local businesses.
“They should have let us know exactly what was happening and held a public meeting to prepare us for it.”
His daughter, Alicia, who is responsible for the business’s marketing, added: “They could have closed it stage by stage instead of the whole thing, because they weren’t even working down this end to begin with. And they could have used a one-way lights system to keep the traffic flowing and allow people through.
Instead there have been radio announcements to avoid Otley so it’s been very damaging for all of the town’s businesses. Everyone’s very glad the Tour de France is coming, of course, but even if we do very well then we won’t make back the money we’ve lost.”
Phil Crossley, of Crossleys Garage, said the recent disruption was just the latest in a long series that had harmed Westgate businesses.
He said: “We had a customer who wanted to bring two vehicles in last week and they wouldn’t let her through.
“She tried on two separate occasions and we rang the council’s highways department but had to leave a message, and no-one rang back, so she couldn’t get here.
“It would be nice if people worked together and Leeds should have held a meeting to tell us exactly what was happening.
“Westgate has been the most disrupted road in Otley the last few years, with one set of roadworks after another.”
Councillors Sandy Lay and Colin Campbell (both Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) have taken up the complaints with the city council.
Coun Lay said: “I have raised numerous concerns regarding closing the main east-west route through Otley but to little or no avail.
“I suggested using signalling rather than closure, and better signage. I also complained about poor communication, particularly with regard to Westgate and Boroughgate businesses.
“I have to say I have a lot of sympathy with the view that at times Westgate was like the Marie Celeste – I visited the area a number of times and saw no-one working.”
Coun Lay said he was told by the council’s highways department that some disruption was inevitable, but it believed it had remained ‘low level’.
The major Tour-related roadworks in Otley were due to be completed this week with the final section taking place on Billams Hill.
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