South Street businesses say they have lost thousands of pounds in sales since major gas works began.
And the replacement works, which are currently taking place, have been delayed by ‘at least two weeks’ after drilling had to stop over fears it could damage the historic Market Cross.
Traders at the top of South Street, where the bulk of SGN’s gas main replacement is going on, fear the disruptions will spill into the summer.
Rosalind Smith, owner of Chesca, said: “It’s affected me by £1,000 a week. That’s not a guess, I know because that’s what my till has been down.
“This is the busiest time for me because the first quarter of the year is wedding season, it’s affecting me really badly.
“They have talked about compensation, but there are so many hoops to jump. The whole thing is abysmal.”
Lin Stearn, owner of shoe shop ZigZag, said: “For us it’s been a nightmare. Our shop has been barricaded from the other side of the street since it started, vans have been parked outside, we feel really cut off. And the constant drilling has been horrendous.
“A few weeks back the smell of gas was so bad customers were saying how disgusting it was. My staff have said people have just ran past our shop because it was so bad.
“It’s worse over the weekends, people see queues of people down South Street and think it’s such an eyesore I just won’t bother.”
SGN began replacing the old gas mains with plastic pipes on January 18 and had estimated it would take 12 weeks to complete.
But a manager on site told the Observer there would be ‘at least a two week delay’ because specialist equipment was needed when working near the Cross. Much of the work had to be done without drills, to ensure the vibrations didn’t damage the historic monument.
Buses will continue to be rerouted away from the city centre until the road is open again.
Dave Hockridge, owner of Present Surprise, said: “We’re probably down about 25 to 30 per cent compared to this time last year.
“While it’s the quietest time for others, it’s one of the most important for us because there’s Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day which are three key events.
“The first quarter is key because it gives us an idea how the rest of the year will go, and of course we still have all our bills to pay, so it’s been a big hit to us.”
Chichester BID has been liaising with SGN as well as business owners over the disruptions, and said that the number of people entering South Street shops was down.
BID manager Charlotte Wickins said: “We have new sensors which show that footfall on South Street has remained the same since the works started, but that people are not going into the shops as much.
“I would advise shop owners to apply for compensation from SGN if they feel they have been affected.
“Chi BID understands the frustration with some shop owners but SGN have been very professional and it’s work that needs to be done.”
The county council has deferred its brick repair work for the top of South Street and West Street until the autumn because of the ‘frustrations’ and because it would delay South Street from reopening for a further five weeks.
Resurfacing work at the southern end of South Street though will take place in May, when SGN is due to finish.
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