Much-needed makeover work leads to drop in trade

Hundreds of shoppers are avoiding Sudbury’s Borehamgate Precinct as work to refurbish the centre continues, businesses have claimed.

The £168,000 makeover, which is being carried out by the precinct’s owners, has seen tiles ripped up and loud drilling during the first two weeks of work.

Shops in the centre say that although they agree the makeover needs to be done, it has resulted in a fall in trade.

Andy Poll, who works at the Kiosk, which is currently surrounded by workmen, said he had lost around 400 customers in just one week.

“On Thursday alone, we were 170 customers down,” he said.

“People are just not coming to the centre and lots of people have been moaning about the disruption.”

Mr Poll said that the noise generated from drilling, to replace the old floor tiles with non-slip stone slabs, had lessened after workmen switched from using a concrete breaker on a digger to a road plainer. This followed complaints about the decibel levels.

“I am glad it is being done, but it would have been better after Christmas,” said Mr Poll.

The first phase of work is focused around the King Street end of the precinct and the windows of jeweller’s Jonathan Lambert and Milpets have been covered with black lining to prevent damage.

Jill De’ath, manager of the pet shop, said customers had described the route into her store as an “assault course”.

“I keep having to tell people that we are open and elderly people in particular are staying away as they see it as too dangerous,” she said.

“The workmen were outside the front door all day on Monday and I must have been 50 customers down.”

The initial stage of the revamp, which will include a new ramp and steps being built, is expected to be complete by December 22. Workers will then down tools for two weeks, before resuming in the new year with the aim of finishing the project by mid-February.

Jackie Wright, manager of Marimba, said she would be pleased when the new-look centre was ready.

“Everybody has been saying footfall is down, but it has to be done,” she said. “Once it is done, it will hopefully be worth all the aggravation.”

Dick Knights, a supervisor at Wiles contractors, which is carrying out the work, said the team of workers faced a balancing act trying to keep everyone happy.

“It is an impossible task as we are trying to maintain access to all the shops and get the work done,” he said.

“We are doing our best to limit disruption.”