A GROUP of Glengormley traders have said it will be “business as usual” throughout expected traffic disruption during water works on the Ballyclare Road.
The traders based on the Ballyclare Road have appealed to the community to continue to support them during the 14 weeks of the work, however, one businessman fears the disruption could see some local shops closing for good because of the disruption to passing trade.
This Monday, January 14, NI Water will begin 14 weeks of work on the water mains on the Ballyclare Road.
Traffic diversions will be in place and Glengormley traders are expecting widespread disruption during the period.
For the first phase of work traffic will be restricted to one way, from the Antrim Road to Northcott. And during the second phase traffic between Glencairn Drive and the shopping centre will be controlled by temporary traffic lights.
Work was due to begin this Monday (January 10), however, the start was delayed to allow for matrix signs to be in place for a week to publicise the diversions.
NI Water has said it will work to complete the work as fast as it can during the period, however, one businessman said it could be “lights out” for some traders.
Gavin Millar who runs Ink World on the Ballyclare Road said: “First and foremost, we understand that the work has to be done and we have no problem with the updating of the pipe work and I think none of us would have an issue with the need for the work.
“But it is the mechanism that they are employing to carry it out. They are putting in an elaborate traffic control measure on the road which will lead to a great deal of congestion, particularly in the morning and around the schools.
“I feel they need to be more flexible. I have experienced, particularly on the continent and even in London, road work taking place 24 hours a day, or at off-peak times in order to minimise disruption as much as is possible.
“But you say that to the contractors here and they say there are all kind of dangers associated with night work.”
He went on: “It is not just me that will be affected. There is the cafe, the travel agents, the vacuum repair shop. In fact all the Ballyclare Road businesses right down to the butchers could be hit.
“We all depend on the good access, which has kept us afloat. For example in my shop someone picking up an ink cartridge doesn’t want to be stuck in traffic for ages or have to walk too far. They want to be in and out.
“The contractors here, in my opinion, need to up their game and I would be very surprised if the police approve of these traffic measures they are putting in place.”
When asked if local business could survive 14 weeks of traffic disruption, Gavin replied: “That’s the $64,000 question. This could put the lights out on some businesses.”
Eden coffee shop owner Donna Forte said it would be business as usual throughout the works in her business and was consideringhow to overcome the inevitable disruption.
She added: “I completely understand that the work has to be done. But during that time I could lose a lot of passing trade.
“We want to assure people that is it business as usual. Some people may not want to have the hassle of trying to find a parking space, but we would appreciate any support they can give us throughout the duration of the work.
She went on: “I’m considering ways to develop more business through the period and may operate a delivery service for local offices and factories to try and beat any drop in passing trade.
“Business has been tough, and this doesn’t help. We know it has to be done, but maybe they could look at extending working hours to minimise the disruption.”
Last year, Carnmoney Road business owners in Glengormley held protests at the beginning of a similar scheme of water works in the town which they feared would hit them in the pocket.
Iain Patterson from the Glengormley Traders’ Association incorporating the Glengormley Chamber of Commerce said NI Water had improved on its communication to those affected by its work in the past 12 months.
He said: “Without doubt, they have learned from their mistakes. Last year there was very little notice of the work on the Carnmoney and Portland Avenue roads.
“This time they actually told us what is happening, how it is happening and when. We actually had quite a long meeting with the contractors about the work and they have looked at doing work at different times and through weekends.
“At least they were able to consider the possibilities, if not actually do them.
“We have no idea the disruption that will be caused throughout the work and hopefully they can work as hard as possible to get it done as quickly as possible.”