Sheffield business owners speak out about "nightmare" construction work

The front of Trippets Lounge Bar
The front of Trippets Lounge Bar
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A number of Sheffield business owners have spoken out about their experiences "in hell" with council construction work.

Window-high deliveries blocking restaurants, drill cables and vans barring pub doors and construction workers sitting along dining windows are just some of the things businesses have had to put up with in recent months.

Road or building work taking place on business’ doorsteps, occasionally without notice, has damaged local trade in some cases for over a year at a time.

Debbie and Carl Shaw who own, among others restaurants, the three-year-old Trippets Lounge Bar, Trippets Lane, suffered such issues for around 15 months.

At one point boarding was put up which blocked sight of the entire front of the restaurant while work was undertaken on a neighbouring building.

Just as it was coming to an end Sheffield City Council announced plans to build a seven-storey block of flats directly across the road, despite objections from planning officers.

A stack of wood blocking the front door of Trippets, it was left by construction worker

A stack of wood blocking the front door of Trippets, it was left by construction worker

Another business on Trippet Lane, The Grapes pub, formally objected to the new plans stating the development will disrupt trade and car parking and block out some of the rear windows of the pub.

Ms Shaw said she "just wanted to cry" when she found out there would be yet more work.

She said: “The work has to be done but it’s the inefficiency that makes everybody cross.

“We are between a rock and a hard place. We have some very fabulous customers who come in and say ‘I’ll not mention outside, Debbie’ because they really do sympathise with us.”

Van parked on yellow lines near The Harlequin pub, June 2017

Van parked on yellow lines near The Harlequin pub, June 2017

She said recent weeks have been “hell” as stacks of wood, a van and deliveries have blocked the front door. Meanwhile, on the other side of the road there is a free sidewalk which would have only blocked a derelict wall.

Ms Shaw added: “It’s been happening all over the city, people are tearing their hair out and no one seems to give any thought about what it’s doing to our businesses.”

Elsewhere, on Nursery Street, Liz Aspden, owner of The Harlequin pub, experienced similar troubles.

For a year various work damaged trade and made the pub "look like it was closed".

A hole dug by the front door of The Harlequin, May 2017

A hole dug by the front door of The Harlequin, May 2017

Some of the working practises included leaving a hole dug into the pavement outside the front door unprotected and vans parked with no safe route for pedestrians.

A road and footbridge were closed for months later than planned which caused direct buses to the pub to be diverted onto a "poorly lit and dodgy looking back street" and walking customers to add an extra 10 minutes to their journey.

Ms Aspden said: "The impact on the business was horrific, and our taking took a big hit for 12 months compared with the previous year.

"Our daytime trade relies heavily on nearby office workers, many of whom use the footbridge to get across to us. It simply wasn't practical for them to visit us regularly on a half-hour dinner break.

"Then people change their habits, find somewhere new, and it takes a long time for trade to build back up again after the disruption."

National Grid, who were working on the area, did visit Ms Aspden and discipline their contractors. But Ms Aspden said she received "no support or compensation" from the council.

She added: "I did look into whether we could apply for compensation but it seemed like such an onerous and complicated business that I didn't pursue it. I'd heard horror stories from other business owners who had gone through the processes and spent so much time doing so, for so little return.

"In an ideal world, when works are planned, I think it would be useful to have a contact within the council who proactively sent information to local businesses saying what kind of support might be available if trade were disrupted, what threshold of disruption they'd consider and what records to keep."

Councillor Douglas Johnson, City ward, said it was "unacceptable and shouldn't be happening" but added "it depends on the detail" as to how much support the council can offer.

He said: "We are always happy to discuss details with local businesses dealing with these issues. There are things the council can do and different officers with certain powers."

Coun Johnson added that businesses along Green Lane on Kelham Island have been in touch with construction concerns which they have been able to resolve. And said there is a clause in council policy which bans such practises.

Peter Vickers, highway and Sheffield traffic manager, said when contacted they try to do "all they can to help".

He added: “We are sorry the businesses were affected in this way by third party works outside their premises.”

Mr Vickers said any member of the public or business who are being affected by Council roadworks can also contact them by email at highways@sheffield.gov.uk or 0114 2736677.