BUSINESSES on the A40 are losing thousands of pounds a week in passing trade because of a six-month road closure, with no compensation available to them.
A full closure has been in place at Dursley Cross near May Hill since August because of £4 million works to repair a collapsed embankment.
Diversions have been in place on the major route connecting the Forest with Gloucester and Ross, with local traffic being sent through Mitcheldean to rejoin the A40 at Longhope and Huntley.
HGVs and through traffic are being diverted via the A417 to Bromsbarrow and the M50 to Ross-on-Wye.
It means that businesses like The Farmers Boy at Longhope, The Red Lion at Huntley and garden centre and cafe Leaf Creative are taking a big hit in passing trade, as the diversions are taking motorists away from the main road.
Phil Kiernan, owner of the Farmers Boy, claims his business is losing out on around £3,000 a week - equating to £72,000 over the course of the six months.
He says that loss is being exasperated by rising energy costs which have increased by around 300 per cent this year, just as hospitality businesses were beginning to find some stability again after the pandemic.
And he is frustrated that there is seemingly no compensation due for businesses either from the government or from any authority responsible for the works, unless the closure remains in place for longer than expected.
The completion date for the works is February 2023.
Phil said: “It just seems to be one thing after another - first Brexit hit us, then Covid, and now the road closure.
“We weren’t given much notice about it, it was just ‘essential works need to be carried out’.
“At the time I wasn’t too concerned because of the diversion in place, but the diversion is a total mess.”
He says signage at both ends of the A40 and at Mitcheldean is confusing motorists, which in turn is putting them off heading that way at all.
And he’s worried about the long-term impact that will have on trade, as people become accustomed to taking alternate routes.
“The road signs at each end are very misleading - they say ‘no through access’, then ‘road closed’, then ‘business open as usual’. But the road is open between here and Ross-on-Wye.”
Both the Farmers Boy and Leaf Creative have put out their own signage to remind passers by they are open for business.
But Phil said: “People are creatures of habit. If it’s closed for six months and you’ve decided to go somewhere else, now I’ve go to market and re-advertise to get you back, and that costs money.
“So it’s an awful lot of effort to put into it, again, which we shouldn’t have to be worrying about.”
He is currently waiting to hear from insurers about money he could be owed because of the loss of trade, but even if any funds are forthcoming, it is likely they will take months to come through.
He’s also asked Forest of Dean District Council for support with business rates, as they’re not getting as much trade as they should usually would at this time of year.
“This pub is open seven days a week, all day every day, because we’re on the A40.
“On average we’re losing about £3,000 a week - we’re talking livelihoods here. People are worried about their jobs, we’re worried about keeping the business open.
“Saturdays and Sundays we’re okay, but you can’t run a place of this size on two days a week.”
He has also written to Forest MP Mark Harper for help identifying what support could be available to him and other local business owners.
And he did manage to get a response from the recently-appointed Secretary of State for Transport, who contacted the regional director of National Highways, Jason Hones, on his behalf.
But the only comfort Mr Hones could offer was that teams have identified potential time savings for the works which mean the road could be reopened in January, but likely not this side of Christmas.
Mr Hones also said that signage in the area had been amended to remind motorists that local businesses were open as usual.
Phil added: “In my view if they’re going to close the road they’ve got to compensate, there has to be some help. It feels like they’ve forgotten about us, and I’m not just talking about me, I’m talking local businesses in general.
“I understand they’re essential roadworks, but you can work at night time, put it in one lane or close it for a week, two weeks - we can carry that. But six months is absolutely ridiculous”.