It’s an uphill struggle for Old Town traders

High Street road improvements - halted for Christmas, but work still to be done
High Street road improvements - halted for Christmas, but work still to be done

Some traders are looking forward to a more positive future following the suspension of roadworks in Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town.

But others are dreading the return of workmen in the new year and one trader is moving out to avoid the ordeal altogether.

After meetings with business owners back in October, council officials agreed that late running roadworks to make the High Street one-way should be postponed until next year, so that struggling traders could take advantage of the festive shopping period.

Dan Busson, owner of bike shop Leisure Wheels, said: “It is a lot more positive now and the road looks good so it would be great to get some people up here.

“We need to be positive and look to the future.”

But some are dreading the return of the roadworks in the new year.

House of Elliott gift shop owner Michelle Elliott, who agreed things are now looking up, said: “We are going to have hell in January.”

Theresa Garvin from the Fretz music store said they’re still trying to catch up on lost trade and added: “We are not looking forward to the re-start in January.”

Restaurant 65 owners Grant and Gina Young, who have resorted to not opening at lunchtimes due to the dwindling number of customers and tried an online voucher discount deal to pull in evening punters, say it is going to take some time to recover from the damage already done.

“If it wasn’t for the Christmas period bookings we wouldn’t be open,” said Grant.

His wife has taken a job elsewhere to bring in extra cash with takings at the restaurant down around 30 per cent year on year.

The High Street works – a project between Herts County Council and Dacorum Borough Council to make the road one-way and designed to draw in shoppers – will start again on January 6 and are due to be complete by early March but this is weather dependent, warn council officials.

But one firm that will not be there is baking supplies company Make Me A Cakey, which is relocating to Mark Road and being re-branded The Great Cake Warehouse.

Owner Simon Humphrey said: “I need a bigger space and I’m just not going to put myself through at least another six months of roadworks down here.”

The borough council has been advertising and offering free parking in a bid to entice shoppers back to the area.