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New Street shopkeeper wants chance to air views on changes

Simon Le Bas, of Zen, in New Street Picture: James Jeune (38168035)

A SMALL-business owner in town says he is “frustrated by a lack of consultation” regarding planned Infrastructure works on New Street.

Simon Le Bas, who runs wellbeing shop Zen, told the JEP that when he was first notified of the project by the government six months ago.

He assumed that there would have a been a “proper sit down” for affected business owners to express their ideas and concerns.

However, according to Mr Le Bas, only a handful of “informal chats” materialised.

Resurfacing work on New Street forms part of the government’s public realm scheme, which covers the stretch from Union Street to New Cut, and would give the street “a new look and feel, with space for people to move about freely or to st​op and enjoy their environment”. This includes new paving, planting, more seating and street lighting.

It is due to start this September and take place in stages, with estimated completion to be by next June.

“It’s the lack of courtesy,” Mr Le Bas said. “We’re the people that have our businesses [on New Street]. I would have thought that we are quite important”.

Mr Le Bas said a consultant visited his shop recently. “I get handed a leaflet saying this is what’s happening. That’s it. I wanted to give my views and have someone listen.

“All this work is going to have a huge impact on trade,” Mr Le Bas added.

Responding to concerns, the Infrastructure and Environment Department said that it continues to consult with businesses in the area as part of a phased series of engagement that started in December last year.

“In phase two, in January to March this year, the engagement was extended to local traders along New Street and New Cut”, they said. “There were discussions with the three largest traders in New Street.”

The government encouraged other businesses to “speak directly to the project team about any issues”.

Responding to the news that consultations had taken place with the three largest traders on the street, Mr Le Bas said: “Are we [small business owners] not considered important enough?”

“It’s not a huge street. We’re even more vulnerable to drops in footfall [than the bigger businesses]. Any effects in our trade can affect the future of our business”.

The business owner told the JEP that he had already experienced a significant drop in footfall during recent drainage works that closed a large portion of the road.

He called on the government to do more to prevent that happening when the new project begins.

“It seems to be a common theme with government. They’ll ask you for your opinion but go ahead and do [the work] anyway,” he said.

Mr Le Bas added: “A couple of the businesses put banners up [during the drainage works] saying their businesses were open but they had to pay for those themselves.”

Another New Street shop owner expressed his concerns about the planned works, which he said would not solve any of the issues in the area.

Allan Kittleson, who runs the tailors shop at number 3, New Street, said: “[The government] are making it look nicer but are not solving any [existing] issues”.

“They shouldn’t have buses and taxis coming down [New Street]. It is too small.”

On the new “piazza feel” plans, he added: “People aren’t going to want to sit on a new bench when there are buses and taxis hurtling past.”

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