Shop owners in Lindfield are sending the message ‘It’s business as usual’ as they fear misleading road signs are needlessly driving customers away from the High Street.
South East Water has installed signs directing traffic away from the upper end of the High Street and Ardingly Road, which is closed for approximately 13 weeks to install a new drinking water main.
Frankie Gray, owner of Harmony at Home Children’s Eco Boutique, said: “We saw a decline from the moment the signs went up.”
On a good week the shop takes £2k, whereas last week it took only £400.
“Let’s not kill off a beautiful village,” she added. “They’re strangling a beautiful, quaint village.
“A bunch of apes could organise a party in the park better than this.
“We feel let down. It’s hopeless. I don’t know what to do.”
Harmony at Home is not the only business to feel a financial strain. Paul Wittering, joint owner of Fika Village Tea Room, said: “It’s a joke -you put about five or six road signs up and people start turning away. The footfall has dropped by about 60 or 70 percent. We’re suffering, and it’s not just us.”
Business owners feel that the road signs which state ‘Road ahead closed’ suggest that there is no access to Lindfield High Street, but there is no difficulty entering or parking in most of the village.
Becca Belfield, store manager of boutique card and gift shop Swalk, said: “It’s been horrible, really tough. The signs seems rather extreme. I’ve never seen so many. They are putting customers off.”
Rupert Jefferson, owner of Doodie Stark clothes shop, said he feared that although the closure is for a few months, the effect could be lasting.
He said: “We have had a considerable drop in trade. We’re down about 40 or 50 percent, which is huge.”
After receiving complaints, South East Water added 18 signs making it clear that people can still shop in Lindfield.
Mr Jefferson said: “When you’re driving it’s the red signs with the white writing saying ‘Road closed’ that you pay attention to, not the yellow ones that say ‘Business as usual’.
“I’m appalled by the way it has been handled.”
The construction of the new £1millon pipeline began on January 20.
Chris Love, Delivery Manager at South East Water, said: “Due to the pipe’s large size, the high number of other utility services within the road which we need to avoid, as well as ensuring the safety of the public and our contractor, we spent a long time considering the best installation method.”
South East Water stated it had no choice but to close the upper end of the road between All Saints Church and Park Lane.
Mr Love added: “We are aware further changes to the signage are required. We are working with West Sussex Highways to agree modified wording for the signs which will be put in place over the next week. We are sorry for the disruption this important work is causing.”
John Cottenham, owner of Glyn Thomas and Sons butchers, believes that the latest signs are still a problem.
He said: “They’re misleading. They should say ‘access north closed’.”
Lindy Collinge, from Linfield, said: “They need the right signs saying all shops are open. I’ve started to worry about the village.”