Businesses fight back over Methil road closure plans

Myra Philp, Clare Mead, Mr Latis of Premier One Stop Shop, Becca Murray and Jordan Mead.
Myra Philp, Clare Mead, Mr Latis of Premier One Stop Shop, Becca Murray and Jordan Mead.

Traders in Methil say common sense has prevailed in a row over roadworks.

A number of business owners on Wellesley Road were shocked to receive correspondence early last week telling them that roadworks were due to start on May 9 - giving them just 12 days notice.

The resurfacing work was due to be carried out on sections of the main road between the Premier One store and Aberhill newsagents over a five week period.

But following an outcry from traders, some of whom said the works would have led to them closing, Fife Council has rescheduled the work to a more convenient time of the year.

Myra Philp, who runs the Home Treasures store, said: “A man from the council turned up last week with surveys and told us about the work.

“It wasn’t until then that we knew the road was going to be closed for five weeks.

“At least four businesses said then that they would have to close because of a lack of passing trade.

“There’s an opticians, a hairdressers and a dentist all on this road – they were worried that even if they sent out letters to inform clients about the road closure, they wouldn’t receive them in time because it was so little notice.

“The fact that they only gave us 12 days notice was deplorable.”

Myra started a petition, and by the end of the day had signatures from every independent business on the street.

She also contacted her local councillor Jim Young, who took the petition to council headquarters, as well as Peter Grant MP and Claire Baker, former MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.

And just two days later, the traders received confirmation that the works would be pushed back.

“There’s a micro economy here on Wellesley Road,” said Myra. “Right now, it’s a pretty busy time for us, and that will last until the school holidays. Then, people tend to go away on holidays and things like that and there isn’t so much passing trade.

“We just felt that if people were faced with a diversion, they would go a different way. They would then continue to go that other way, and might go that way forever.”

Most of the local traders on Wellesley Road were quick to sign the petition set up by Myra when Fife Council’s transportation department informed them of the impending road closure, just 12 days before workers were due on site.

Most were happy to hear that a compromise had been reached, but a number of the traders say they will still feel the effects of road closure.

Mandy Bruce, owner of Puppy Love, has been on the street for three years, and said while she accepted that the works had to be done, it was an inconvenience for many of the traders.

“And giving everyone 12 days notice was just terrible,” she added. “It came so totally out of the blue and was a bit of a shock.” Clare Mead, who owns Clares hairdressing salon and has been on the street for more than 25 years, said it just wouldn’t have made sense to do the work now. “We would have had these works for five weeks, and then they are due to start work on the new flats at the former Bowling Green too, so it would have been a double whammy for us. It will be better doing the work at the end of the summer, because hopefully it will all get done at once.” Although most of her clients visit by appointment, she was worried about where they would park and said residents nearby would suffer as people tried to park as close to the street as they could.

Meanwhile, Jim Laing, partner at McLeish, McPhee and Laing opticians – which has been on the street for 40 years – said while the revised timetable was better, it was still an inconvenience for them. “We have a lot of elderly clients and many of them would have usually parked outside or got a taxi straight to the door. It’s helpful that it’s been changed, because five weeks just wouldn’t have been good, but I think we’ll still see a drop in numbers. It’s just ridiculous they can do this with so little warning - more forward planning and consultation with business owners would have been helpful.”

Andrew Geddes, lead professional - roads maintenance projects at Fife Council, said: “We have taken on board the comments received and delayed the delivery of the surfacing scheme until late July 2016 to allow further consultation with those affected.

“The general consensus was that the school holiday period was quieter from a trading point of view and as a result will have less impact on their businesses.

“A letter is in the process of being sent out to businesses affected by the works advising them of the delay in commencing the scheme.”

Myra added: “Everybody is quite stunned that the council has actually listened and there’s a bit of disbelief that common sense has prevailed.”

Peter Grant MP said: “I’m delighted that a positive compromise has been agreed between the council’s transportation service and local traders.

“While it is important that our road infrastructure is kept in the best condition possible, it is vitally important that any disruption to local traders and residents are kept to an absolute minimum.”