'Scaffolding could put us out of business' - Sheffield shopkeepers fear for their future
Sheffield shopkeepers fear delays to 'obstructive' building work could hit trade for two Christmases in a row - and potentially put some of them out of business.
Small business owners in Chapel Walk, Sheffield city centre, have had to put up with their shop fronts being all wrapped up in scaffolding for the last several months while work is undertaken to convert vacant office units into flats above their premises.
They claim shoppers have been put off by the unsightly metallic bars enveloping their shops and hit trade over the usually busy festive season.
They claimed builders downed tools at the end of November and are not due to resume work until at least mid February due to an issue with cladding on the front of the building.
The work was originally due to be finished by September this year but traders now fear the three-month delay could mean the work - and the accompanying scaffold - will still be ongoing at Christmas this year.
Carl Dunne, aged 45, who owns Cards & Gifts, said: "People simply assume that the shops are closed or are put off by the scaffold.
"Takings were down by about 20 per cent last year, and you would expect the same again this Christmas. I am getting extremely anxious that I will have to close up shop.
"You would have thought the company would have everything in place before they started without having to put applications in later and causing delays."
He also hit out at Sheffield Council for 'failing to support' traders and urged the authority to negotiate a reduction in business rates to help offset losses.
Naz Yousaf, a shop assistant at Phone Extras, said: "Trade was down by about 50 per cent over Christmas and we are very concerned that will be the case again this year. .
"I hope they get on with finishing the work so they can take the scaffold down."
A member of staff at Cookshop Clearance Co. said the store was closing down in June after 10 years.
She said this was partly because a director is retiring but added trade was down over Christmas 'possibly due to the scaffold but also because of the current economic climate'.
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In addition to this store closure, there are eight other units currently standing vacant in Chapel Walk.
A company called Fargate Evolve Developments was granted planning permission to transform the office space into 46 apartments in May last year.
The firm submitted an application to make external alterations to the outside of the building in August which was granted by Sheffield Council on January 15.
We have made attempts to contact the company to ask about any delays but have not received a reply.
Sheffield Business Improvement District, an organisation which promotes city centre businesses, has privately been keeping traders updated on the situation.
But manager Diane Jarvis said she was unable to comment publicly on the reasons behind the delay or when it is due to be completed as it is a 'private development'.
She added they will continue supporting traders, which in recent months has include installing better lighting and signage directing shoppers to the area.
A Sheffield Council spokesperson has previously said the scaffold is required to "to safely convert the building into flats" and vowed to work with businesses to "reduce disruption as much as possible."
He added the buildings on Chapel Walk are owned by private landlords and so the authority is unable to negotiate rent reductions.