Three options for the way forward with late-running roadworks in Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town have been presented to suffering traders.
The proposals were presented by officials from Herts County Council, Dacorum Borough Council and contractors Jackson Civil Engineering at the Old Town Hall this morning.
Under the first option the work already started would be finished by the end of November and go and stop signs would be used to control High Street traffic during that time. Workmen would return in the new year to finish the rest of the works.
The second choice is to ramp up working hours to include evenings and weekends to complete all of the works by the end of November but this would involve two weeks of ‘non-consecutive’ road closures, or alternatively three weekends and one week.
Under the third option all works would be stopped and holes filled with temporary Tarmac so that workmen can return in 2014 to finish the work.
The options were drawn up after a meeting with traders on Thursday morning when business owners said plans to close the road for seven weeks would hit them so hard some would be forced to cease trading.
This morning Councillor Terry Douris, who oversees highways on Herts County Council, apologised to traders. “I want to say on behalf of Hertfordshire Highways and Hertfordshire County Council we really genuinely apologise for the inconvenience that has been caused,” he said.
An informal vote at the summit revealed option one to be the most popular amongst the traders there but a final decision is expected to be made by council chiefs within the next 24 hours.
Speaking after the meeting Dacorum Borough Council’s assistant director of planning, development and regeneration James Doe said: “We have got a very clear steer from the businesses today.”
Under all three options the popular Victorian Evening on Saturday, November 16 will still go ahead.
Plans to introduce free parking vouchers until the end of March next year were also unveiled along with proposals from Dacorum Borough Council to help business financially.
This includes setting up an Old Town Economic Forum Grant Scheme where business members will receive a one off payment of £1,000. Some could qualify for up to another £4,000 depending on the level of business rates they pay. The scheme is expected to cost the council around £106,000.
Borough bosses are also proposing to suspend the collection of business rates until next year. However, traders will still have to cough up the amount owed from this year in 2014.
The council’s cabinet will make a decision on whether this financial help will be offered at its meeting on Tuesday evening.
Leader of the council Andrew Williams said: “We are very interested in the long term viability of the area. We want the area to thrive and this, we think, is a significant contribution to ensure that you are still here to enjoy the benefits that are going on.”