Gorleston holes cause misery for traders - but end is in sight

Gorleston High Street closed to all traffic after a hole appeared in the road on Friday afternoon.Th

Gorleston High Street closed to all traffic after a hole appeared in the road on Friday afternoon.The scene on Monday afternoon.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

It has been a week of misery for Gorleston traders after caverns appeared under the surface of two main roads.

One town centre shop has seen sales drop 42 per cent because of road closures, bus diversions and consumer confusion over the last seven days.

Gorleston High Street closed last Friday afternoon when a hole appeared in the road outside QD Stores, revealing a deep cavern underneath. Only a few hours earlier a woman had tripped on the uneven street surface, badly injuring her foot.

On Tuesday, a second hole opened on adjoining High Road, near the junction with Burnt Lane.

The impact on trade was immediate; many people assumed the shops were closed and traders were angry it took three days before Norfolk County Council put up ‘Businesses open as usual’ signs.

Early reports suggested a sewer had collapsed, but the county council later confirmed the cause of the high street hole was the “localised sub-soil condition” - blaming the loose sandy soil under the road surface, which had been made worse by tunnelling rats.

Yesterday, the council said High Street would reopen today.

Most Read

A spokesman said it had been a difficult job for highways due to the complex network of pipes and ducts running under the road. While the end is now in sight - with the council due to work on the High Road hole for three days from Monday - Gorleston traders remain unhappy with how the council dealt with the situation. A number of them have approached the authority about compensation.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, whose offices are not far from the high street, was also unimpressed, calling the county’s lack of communication “a complete disgrace”.

Victor Ling, chairman of Gorleston Traders Association, said it had been a “comedy of errors”.

“I don’t know where we’ll stand in terms of compensation but there is talk of trying to get some business rate relief,” said Mr Ling, who runs Barkers Photographic on Lowestoft Road, just off High Street.

“It’s not been good. We were down 42 per cent on Tuesday.

“I can’t help thinking that if this was a street in the middle of Norwich it would have been sorted the next day.”

Brian Durrant, owner of Keith’s Butchers on the high street, said: “It’s bad enough as it is, without something like this happening.

“This is the main road through town, and the main bus route. Closing it has had a real impact on everyone.”

Mr Lewis said the lack of signage informing people the local shops were still open over the weekend was “an unacceptable mistake.”

County councillor Matthew Smith, for Gorleston St Andrew’s, said: “The High Street has already suffered in just a few days and this should be given top priority by the county. We will be chasing up the issue on a frequent basis, not just on repairs but on the cause and preventing something similar happening in the future.”

A council spokesman said they took charge of repairs on Monday after Anglian Water had ruled out a collapsed or leaking sewer as the cause, but excavation could only start once buried pipes had been mapped.

“Progress was also slowed by compacted road surface material and areas of buried concrete,” he said.

“Nevertheless, after a very difficult start work progressed well and reinstatement of the area, which required particular care around utility services, was complete by 3.30pm on Wednesday.”