Firms must understand impact on communities

COMMENT: Cameras have become part and parcel of everyday life

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Seven months. That’s how long traders in the centre of Fareham have had to put up with workmen replacing an underground gas system.

You can hardly blame them for getting sick of the sight of holes, mud piled in car parking spaces and machinery.

It’s hard enough to run a business at the moment, but all this going on outside their premises has had an enormous effect on custom.

As Claire Poingdestre, who owns the Hansfords fishing tackle shop in High Street, says: ‘The work has often been at a snail’s pace. It has hit our trade hard and only now have they taken the mud and machinery out of the parking bays.

‘People have said they can’t come in to us because they can’t park and the dirt and the noise has been putting people off.’

Nobody is questioning the need for Southern Gas to upgrade the gas mains system. But did it really need to drag on for quite this long?

Richard Howard from High Street Sweets says what many others think when he points to how Tesco has managed to build an entire superstore in the town in just three months.

Yet the gas pipe work has lasted more than twice that and is still not due to finish until early next month.

At least that will give traders chance to recoup some of their losses in the run-up to Christmas.

But we advise them all to consider applying to Southern Gas for compensation after what they have had to contend with. They should have a good case.

The company says the work is on schedule and letters were sent out to shopkeepers warning them of the timescale.

It maintains it is committed to causing minimum disruption on such projects.

But somehow we don’t think the traders in Fareham will be satisfied by that.

Utilities companies need to understand the negative impact that they can have on communities when holes have to be dug, machinery brought in and disruption caused.

Too often it seems they are just not accountable for their actions.