By Dominic Harris
Traders on Canford Lane claim income has dropped by up to 80 per cent since work started three weeks ago, as part of the £70 million Greater Bristol Bus Network scheme.
They have accused Bristol City Council of trampling on small businesses to help private bus companies.
Some have been forced to close while work is carried out on their doorsteps, while others have had days without a single customer as shoppers go elsewhere to avoid the noise and traffic chaos.
For Julien Carey, who runs Garden Trappings on Canford Lane, May is usually his Christmas as people buy plants for the summer.
But his usual takings of up to £400 a day have plummeted by 80 per cent.
Mr Carey said: “In May and June I probably take 45 to 50 per cent of my whole year’s turnover, but the other day I took £15.
“I have lost three and a half days when I couldn’t open at all because of work directly outside my shop. Footfall in the village has plummeted because people just don’t want to shop in a bomb site.
“But the council doesn’t seem to mind the effect it is having on small businesses, where all this work is being done to help two other private businesses, First Bus and Wessex Connect.
“We have another five or six weeks of this, and if this drop in trade continues it could put me under.
“I think the council should have a two-month freeze in business rates for the whole of Westbury as compensation for the money being lost.”
Improved bus stops and shelters with real-time displays are being put in, block paving will replace Tarmac pavements, and more bins, cycle stands and seating will be provided.
Trees will also be planted and another 12 parking and loading spaces will be created.
A consultation was carried out last autumn but traders are angry that they were only told when work was actually starting four days before workmen arrived.
One side of Canford Lane is now closed to traffic, causing jams back to Falcondale Road and Westbury Hill, and most of the pavement is fenced off, blocking the entrances to a number of shops.
Stuart Williams, owner of printing shop Westbury Inks, has seen trade fall 25 per cent.
He said: “The worrying thing is that people are being put off shopping in Westbury.
“If they decide to go elsewhere, that 25 per cent could disappear permanently.”
On the other side of Canford Lane, where work will take place in a few weeks, traders are worried.
Jolene Dunn, who runs the gym Westbury Trym And Tone, said: “May is when we get a lot of new inquiries and people in for gym trials. Last month our inquiries were up 220 per cent on April last year.
“We would expect the same for May, but we have seen a decrease on last year of 63 per cent.”
A few shops down, Merilyn Swash is also struggling.
Mrs Swash has seen her takings halve at her gift shop, Merilyn@No 21,and fears the roadworks could cause her to close for good.
She said: “I know it will be great when it is done, but we have lost a lot of our regular customers and even the people who live in Westbury have avoided it. When they do the work directly in front of the shop we might as well close.”
Mrs Swash received a letter on May 5 to tell her work would start on May 9.
Her husband, John, said: “It was not enough notice, and they should have told us what it involved. There was nothing to say they were ripping up the pavements or roads.”
Business owners say they understand the work is necessary, but would have preferred it to happen in the post-Christmas lull in trade.
But others have questioned the need for it at all, given the economic cutbacks.
Mr Carey said: “The path was totally repaved and had three new bus shelters five or six years ago. There is nothing wrong with it, so if it isn’t broken, why fix it?”
Westbury councillor Alastair Watson has promised to raise the question of compensation with the council.
Council spokesman Pete Wood said the work would reduce traffic congestion by making bus travel easier.
He said in other areas of Bristol the changes had attracted more businesses.
He said: “We do acknowledge that the letter only provided a short period of notice for some businesses along Canford Lane. However, contractors became available to carry out the work and the opportunity was taken.
“If any trader has concerns about the impact of the work on their business they are invited to contact the council’s insurance services department.
“However, we do not normally offer compensation in this situation.”