‘We’re still here’ is the message from independent businesses in the Little Chelsea area as roadworks rumble on in Eastbourne town centre.
Some traders say the works, which started in March and are set to run for 62 weeks, have been putting off visitors.
“Grove Road is becoming Grave Road,” said Steve Hansen, of Little Chelsea Antiques Emporium.
He said, “We rely on a certain amount of tourists and visitors finding their way up around here. But now they get to Terminus Road, come across those barriers, and turn around and go back again.
“There’s so much red, which subconsciously tells you to turn around.”
He is calling for the barriers to be taken down on the days there is no work taking place.
“They stop our customers every single day that they are up,” Mr Hansen said, “I have spoken to a number of businesses, we all believe our footfall is down about 50 per cent.
“We are not getting those people just going for a wander, and my business relies on those people.
“This should be an asset to the town. Tourists want to walk around independent shops, but it’s not possible now without major interruptions.”
While Joanna Cavaliere of The Olive Tree coffee lounge and eaterie said her family-run business had also been suffering since the works began.
She said, “Since it started it’s really affected us. Six weeks more of this we wouldn’t be able to survive.
“There’s nobody about. There’s often parking spaces, which you wouldn’t normally find.
“The mess of it is putting people off going into town. I’m sure it will be great once it’s all finished but whether businesses will survive that long I’m not sure.”
She added, “I think with the tennis coming it would be nice if they encouraged people to come up this way.”
And Stuart Broad from Camilla’s Bookshop said while many customers come from far and wide to visit the well-loved shop, he had noted a drop in footfall.
He said, “To be honest it’s expected. It puts people off coming up this road. It’s definitely affecting trade along here and South Street.
“We hope once all the work has gone there will be signage pointing people up here.”
Camilla’s Bookshop has been trading Antiquarian and secondhand books for 35 years, and Archie the parrot who says hello to everyone who walks in is a firm customer favourite.
Mr Broad added, “It’s a totally different experience than the new Arndale will be, more bespoke, there’s more speciality shops around here and it’s like the North Lanes in Brighton.”
While Rhydd Pugh of The Vinyl Frontier said the business had been more affected by Brexit than roadworks. He said, “The referendum made prices go up, it’s killed confidence.
“We used to sell a lot of records abroad but our prices have gone up because of what’s happened to the pound.”
The business is Eastbourne’s longest established independent official RSD shop and licensed cafe.
Mr pugh added, “A lot of people are moaning about the lights changing. But the work has to be done.
“I think it’s having a bit of an impact. I think this area needs to be supported better.”
But Lucy Hancock at The Art House said the works have not affected her cafe, which offers artisan food and creative events.
She said, “Our business is growing month by month. It would be nice if there was somebody at the council allocated for small businesses in Eastbourne.
“Small business isn’t encouraged here, it should be celebrated. I don’t want to be in the new Arndale, my customers respect independent businesses and want to support them. This is a lovely area.
“This area’s quite established and it needs to be protected. We need more events. They should reduce the speed limit to 15 miles per hour to make it more customer friendly and widen the pavements.”
Roadworks to incorporate a new bus lane in Eastbourne town centre started on March 19.
The aim is to install a bus lane along the stretch of Gildredge Road from South Street to the junction with Terminus Road.
A 20 mph zone will also be brought in along Gildredge Road, Cornfield Road and Ashford Road and several other connecting streets, all as part of the Eastbourne Town Centre Improvement Scheme.
Read more about it here.