‘Council has cost me thousands of pounds’

Peter Moore owner of the nursery. Picture Mark Westley
Peter Moore owner of the nursery. Picture Mark Westley

A businessman, who warned that a road closure would cause him significant financial loss, will seek compensation from Essex County Council.

Birds Farm Trees sits on the road between Belchamp Walter and Belchamp Otten.

Earlier this month, the road between Puttock End and Stettles Farm Road was closed for five working days.

Peter Moore, who owns the business, only found out about the closure two days before work was set to start.

Despite making desperate pleas to have the closure postponed to allow him to trade during his busiest week of the year, the council pressed ahead with the work.

Mr Moore said he is now looking to recover some of the £4,500 he estimates to have lost in sales.

In a letter to Gavin Jones, chief executive of Essex County Council, he said: “We are not talking about inconvenience here, but severe financial loss, due to the failure of the council to follow correct permitting procedure and consistently to ensure the contractors and the council’s own staff followed instructions making the council vicariously liable for the resultant loss.”

The company grows hedging plants and trees which are sold bare rooted in November and March, their dormant time.

Once they come into leaf at the end of March, they cannot be sold and have to be destroyed, with the ground required to be cleared for the following year’s crop.

“Time is critical and March is our window of opportunity to make the bulk of our year’s income from a crop that has taken three years to grow,” said Mr Moore.

“You can imagine the devastating effect that an unannounced road closure would have on us at this time of the year if customers are unable to get through to us.

“I was assured that marshals would be at either end of the closure and access would be given to our customers.

“Marshals were not installed as promised and I had calls from numerous customers telling me they were not allowed through.

“I can only guess at the number that did not get through and simply gave up.

“The diversion signs were totally wrong and did not divert customers to our premises but four miles later to the other end of the access, where the road was closed

“I cannot ignore my financial losses which are a direct result of the negligence of the council to follow procedure when obtaining a road closed notice.”

Mr Moore said he was left with no alternative but to seek compensation for losses.

Essex Highways has disputed Mr Moore’s claim that workmen were not posted at either end, saying motorists were given directions on how they could access the nursery through the diversion at the south end of the road.

A spokesperson said: “The current work has been completed and crews have now left the road.

“We worked with the nursery to ensure that there was access to the site throughout the work.

“There was a short delay to work as the necessary materials and equipment were unavailable from one manufacturer.

“At this point, we took the road closure signs down to ensure full access.”