Residents and traders have given a mixed response to a decision to postpone the lengthy closure of a tourism-dependent town’s high street by several months, with some saying the roadworks scheme could still have a devastating impact on businesses hit by the pandemic.
Four days after hearing numerous vociferous objections at a public meeting to its plan to spend five weeks resurfacing the A684 through Hawes from next month, North Yorkshire County Council has announced the closure would not start until “late September” to avoid the town’s major sheep sales.
Highways boss Jayne Charlton said the authority had listened to the views raised at the meeting and had recognised concerns the major works, which are part of £7m project to improve safety on a road identified among the country’s most dangerous roads, had been scheduled for the start of the peak tourist season.
She said: ““We hope the community can appreciate that there is no ideal time to carry out such extensive works. We have been able to extend the funding until the end of 2022 but we must balance public opinion with the risks that carrying out this type of work in the winter may bring.
“Resurfacing during the winter months can be very problematic and we want to ensure we avoid any unforeseen delays to the overall programme.
“We always listen to the views of those most affected by our highways schemes and would like to thank everybody who came forward to make their voices heard.”
However, tourism businesses have described the council’s decision as “a hollow victory”, saying the rescheduled works would impact on late season bookings at a time the town’s auction mart would continue to be busy with tup sales.
Hawes B&B owner Fiona Gardham said the council had only partially listened to views being expressed.
She said: “Last October we were full and I have already got bookings in for October. We all acknowledge there isn’t a great time to do it, but what the vast majority of businesses said at the meeting was that they wanted the work doing from Monday to Friday between November and February, when 90 per cent of our trade is at weekends.
“If the weather was poor it would extend the closure, but that would have a negligible effect on our trade. I’d throw it back to the council and contractors and say if someone was to take your wages away for October how would you feel?”
Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council chair Jill McMullon said while there was consensus the road repairs were long overdue, highways bosses had been met with a wall of opposition to closing the high street for five weeks following the pandemic and months of works by Yorkshire Water.
She said: “Some businesses are without doubt on the verge of collapse and the coming summer season could save them. Before the decision some business owners were beside themselves with worry about how they were going to pay their mortgage, so the relief has been enormous.
“I’m utterly delighted as this gives Hawes the chance to recoup some of their losses and at least the main tourist season will then be over. Common sense has prevailed, but the common sense came from the people in Hawes.”
A council spokeswoman said it would confirm a new start date for the works in the coming weeks.