Small business owners have hit out at the disruption caused by major gas work in Weymouth town centre as the summer season gets underway.

Engineers for gas distribution network SGN are working to upgrade gas pipes underneath St Mary Street and Bond Street in the centre of town. Part of St Thomas Street is also affected.

Large holes have appeared as the streets are dug up and firms are complaining the unsightly works are putting off customers.

A further road closure affecting part of Bond Street comes into effect today.

A letter sent to businesses from SGN says the road closure will last for up to two weeks – covering the bank holiday weekend – but the company has told the Echo it should only last a week.

Several store owners in the area have complained that the digging work has been causing problems for their businesses.

Tony Morris, managing director of Rude Not To in Bond Street, said that his business has been struggling since the digging started.

“I think more needs to be done to bring trade to the town out of season.

“We are struggling.”

Sandra Smith, manager of the Grape Tree health food shop in St Thomas Street, also reported a loss in profits, and said she had to reduce her hours as a result.

Both Tony Morris and Sandra Smith also commented that the gas works were obscuring the view to their stores.

Mr Morris said: “I have had one customer all day.

“It’s a beautiful day, but they are just not coming up this street.”

“It is very frustrating, but obviously this work has got to be done.”

The project was announced in a letter sent out to businesses which stated: “As part of our commitment to keeping you safe and warm by making sure our network is fully maintained, we’re replacing our old gold metal gas mains with new, durable plastic pipe in your street.

“This will help us keep the gas flowing safely and reliably for all our customers well into the future.

“Our engineers started work on 16/5/19 should be finished in approximately 2 weeks.

“There’s no charge for any of this work. We’re just making sure our network is fully maintained, keeping you and your family safe, and I’d like to thank you in advance for your co-operation."

SGN has since said that the work will be completed before the bank holiday weekend.

Sam Bishop, a supervisor for The Weymouth Sweet Shop, said: “They need to get on with it.”

Weymouth Business Improvement District (BID) has expressed its intention to support local businesses.

BID is sharing the hashtag #BeatTheGasWorks, and any struggling businesses can contact them if they need help with promotion.

Claudia Webb, Chief Operations Officer for Weymouth BID said: “Obviously the work needs to be done but communication could have been better.

“If any businesses would like us to promote them during the works they are most welcome.”

Compensation offered to businesses

In response, SGN clarified that the nature of the work involved the installation of a new pipe and conceded that there would be some disruption on the roads.

A spokesman said: “We’re working in Weymouth, to upgrade our gas network with new plastic pipe.

“This will ensure a continued safe and reliable gas supply for many years to come."

The firm said after close consultation with the local authorities, the junction of Bond Street and St Mary Street will be closed off to motorists (deliveries) from 10am today and will not reopen until work is complete.

The spokesman said: “This is to ensure the safety of pedestrians and our engineers.

“Delivery access for businesses is being maintained via back entrances.

“Our work will be completed and the road will be re-opened by 4pm next Friday (before the bank holiday weekend).”

The company also said that it would offer a compensation process for small businesses.

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