A group of businesses on the edge of Haywards Heath fear they are losing customers because of a ‘Road Closed’ sign in the area.
The temporary sign has been erected in Borde Hill Lane by South East Water while a new water main is installed. Last week, the water company urged drivers not to ignore the sign in case of accidents.
But this week, business owners said they feared their customers did not realise they were open as usual.
Samantha Phillips, co-owner of the Green Tree Gallery at Borde Hill Garden, said: “If people don’t know we’re open, they are not necessarily going to take a leap of faith past a sign that says ‘Road Ahead Closed’. Our businesses are definitely suffering.”
She said other businesses in the area were also affected including Jeremy’s Restaurant and Cafe Elvira at Borde Hill Garden, along with a gym and offices.
“We have been pressing South East Water for better signage - and they have improved it - but it’s still not clear that people can gain access along Borde Hill Lane,” she added.
She said that when the road first closed last month there were yellow boards advising that Balcombe village business were open as usual “but nothing about us.”
Meanwhile Jeremy Ashpool, owner of Jeremy’s Restaurant, said: “We are all suffering a loss of business as well as a massive inconvenience to customers from the poorly re-routed signage.”
He added: “We have had late bookings, frustrated customers and there have been a couple of issues with people being re-routed through Handcross, adding 20 minutes to their journey times.”
He said the ‘Road Closed’ sign had “created the impression we’re a no-go area. We’re all just terribly, terribly concerned.
“We’re all dependent on customer traffic. If the the road was shut for just two or three weeks it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s being closed for 20 weeks plus.”
Jeremy, who has run his restaurant there for nearly 20 years, said all the businesses understood the work needed to be done, but were calling for better signage to signal to passers-by that they were all still open and access was available.
Chris Love, delivery manager at South East Water, said: “Due to the existing utility services within the road which we need to avoid, as well as ensuring the safety of the public and our contractor, the only space available to us to lay the pipe is close to the centre of the road which is why Borde Hill Lane needs to be closed to through traffic.
“Businesses that fall just before just before the start of the work but after the ‘Road ahead closed’ sign continue to have customer access as normal, however there are a number of businesses within the road closed area. For these companies we are carefully managing the customer vehicles to ensure safe access can be maintained when passing the working area.
“Our customer liaison officer has visited businesses in the area on numerous occasions, both before and during the project to discuss access with them. We have been listening to them regarding the signage and the impact it is having on businesses and working to resolve their concerns.”
He said extra signs had been placed along the diversion route highlighting that businesses were open as usual.