Firms consider legal action over Portsmouth roadworks

ANGER Businessman Paul Ojla says delays opening the Burrfields Road bridge have hit trade.   Picture: Dean Kedward (113646_9773)
ANGER Businessman Paul Ojla says delays opening the Burrfields Road bridge have hit trade. Picture: Dean Kedward (113646_9773)
Picture: Malcolm Wells

Crash on A27 causing delays

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BUSINESS owners have threatened legal action over roadworks which they say have hit trade.

Burrfields Road bridge in Copnor was closed for 15 weeks as Portsmouth City Council’s roads contractor Colas worked to weatherproof it.

Workers also made alterations to the junction of Burrfields Road, Copnor Road and Stubbington Avenue.

But the works overran by a fortnight, and business owner Paul Ojla, who owns OJ’s Discounts, in Claybank Road, says his firm may never recover.

‘It’s crucified my business,’ he said. ‘It’s wiped out all our cash reserves and it looks like we’ll have to close down for good.’

Mr Ojay, who has run the store for 34 years, claims the works – and diversions of up to three and a half miles for some customers – have lost him more than £10,000.

He said: ‘It’s crippling. We have never had such bad business. We’re about 40 to 50 per cent down on turnover and it’s a massive loss to a business of this size. People just haven’t been able to get here.’

Colas took up the surface of the bridge, which crosses the railway close to Hilsea station, to waterproof it.

The firm also installed traffic lights on Burrfields Road, Copnor Road and Stubbington Avenue, to make it safer for pedestrians to cross and improve traffic flow at the junction of the three roads.

But bad weather in July and August meant work overran by two weeks, ending last Saturday instead of by September 30.

And Mr Ojay said the diversions and signs Colas put in place made matters worse.

He said: ‘The signs at the Eastern Road end of the closure, where we are, just said the road was closed in big letters. But it didn’t say other roads were available. And on the Copnor Road side, the diversion was three and a half miles extra on people’s journeys. I had customers from Southampton drive to Portsmouth, then turn around and go back because they didn’t know how to get here. The company could have worked faster. Some days they weren’t even working.’

Mr Ojla has asked solicitors to look into claiming compensation, but added ‘we’re not hopeful’.

Nearby Buildbase, on Burrfields Road, has also threatened legal action.

Manager Chris Davies said: ‘These works have had a major effect on our trade and we’re consulting our solicitors to see if anything can be done about it. We don’t know yet what might happen, but we want to make sure we don’t lose money because a road needs fixing.’

Colas spokeswoman Fon Kalawan said: ‘We’ve been in constant contact with the businesses, but as these were necessary works there won’t be a case for us to pay compensation.’