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Emergency gas repairs driving customers away, businesses in Dibden Purlieu claim

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TRADERS in Dibden Purlieu say they have seen a steep drop in customers from a “confusing” main road closure for emergency gas repairs.

The work by SGN on Beaulieu Road, near the Heath roundabout, began on 23rd May.

But locals say the diversions have been confusing for motorists, with many not realising businesses were still accessible on foot.

Cllr Stephanie Osborne (centre) and Cllr Malcolm Wade (far right) with local traders
Cllr Stephanie Osborne (centre) and Cllr Malcolm Wade (far right) with local traders

Siv Larkin, from Sargents Butchers, whose son took over the company last October, added: “In the first week takings were down 39%. We recently had a customer call us to cancel their order as they had tried to follow the diversion but got confused so just turned back home.”

Parish and district councillor Stephanie Osborne told the A&T locals were becoming fed up with the situation.

She said: “Businesses are very upset about it. People think the shops are closed. Others tell me they are avoiding the village. The utility companies are a law unto themselves – they don’t have to say what they are doing or when they will be finished.

“They have said there is pedestrian access but recently I had to help a lady in a wheelchair who was trapped by two-way traffic as she tried to go along Oak Road [the diversion route].”

Sam Long, who runs a fruit and vegetable stall just off Beaulieu Road, told the A&T the closure had been “devastating”. She said: “It’s not just about the businesses, but also the impact on people getting to their doctor or dentist – people are cancelling as they can’t get there.”

The closure has also meant Bluestar had stopped running its number 9 service along the road, which takes passengers to and from Southampton as well as Applemore, Hythe, Holbury and Blackfield.

Sam added: “The other day there was a 91-year-old man heading to a hospital appointment who had been sat at the bus stop for an hour with no idea the bus wasn’t coming. We helped him to get a taxi.”

On Wednesday the bus company updated its website to say the route would be resuming after SGN installed temporary traffic lights on the road.

Tina Brearley who runs The Coffee House on Beaulieu Road said a lot of regular customers were dependant on the bus to get to the village.

She said: “This is a community cafe and a lot of people come for the community aspect – it might be the only time they meet up with others all week.”

Cllr Malcolm Wade, who represents the area at a county, district and parish level, told the A&T: “It is totally unacceptable for the utility company to put a stronghold on the bus service. It was not a pre-arranged closure and was meant to have been traffic controlled [from the beginning].”

A spokesperson for SGN told the A&T: “We’re carrying out urgent repairs to our gas network in Beaulieu Road following a recent gas leak.

“We initially closed Beaulieu Road for the safety of our engineers and the local community with a signed diversion in place to maintain access to local properties.

“As our work has progressed, we have now been able to reopen the road under temporary two-way traffic lights.”

The spokesperson could not say when the work would be complete but had agreed with Hampshire County Council it would be by 29th July.

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