TRADERS who have suffered a dramatic slump in footfall since the Cupola House blaze have called on council bosses to intervene to help increase access to their businesses.
Twelve independent traders, in the Traverse, in Bury St Edmunds, are losing on average 30 to 50 per cent in sales arguing that access to the retail area is largely obstructed by scaffolding supporting the remains of the blighted building.
They want St Edmundsbury Borough Council to exert its influence to find another way of securing the historic site to create more entry space.
Roger Barrow, who runs Harriet’s Tea Rooms and is chairman of a group representing traders in the Traverse which met on Tuesday night, said: “What’s dying in this part of town quite dramatically is the trade.
“The scaffolding has been put together in such a way that it’s blocked off 90 per cent of the Traverse and it looks like a no through road. If the council asserted their influence they could ensure that scaffolding is structured in a different way. That’s the support we need from them. I don’t see as a businessman how people can constantly suffer losses of between 30 and 50 per cent.”
Mr Barrow said his restaurant had seen a 30 to 35 per cent dip in trade after losing their outside seating in the Traverse. He added: “We’re not asking for anymore than we had. We’ve all worked really hard to put this area on the map.”
A spokeswoman for the council said: “We have done our utmost to be the link between the contractors and the traders so everyone is informed and the public knows it is ‘business as usual’ in the Traverse.”
A public meeting was due to be held last night with presentations from the fire service and engineers involved in the recovery as well as an architect who spoke about the future. The spokeswoman added: “The contractors tell us what remains of Cupola House is very fragile and they need the scaffolding to support the building and protect the immediate area.”
David Clarke, project engineer for consultants Richard Jackson Ltd, said the scaffolding had to have ‘some substance’ otherwise the forces involved would pull it and the facade down.” He added that they would be unable to put scaffolding inside as the ‘ground floor is in reasonable condition’ and ‘everything that’s been saved would have to be demolished’ to do so. Meanwhile, Teresa Martin, from Bella Lingerie, which reopened on Saturday, said: “We don’t know what the long term impact of the fire will be but we’re pleased with how our start’s been.” Jessops, which remains closed, is unable to say if the store will ever reopen while Sahara, which is also still closed, ‘hopes to be open in the next few months’ but is ‘at the mercy of what’s happening next door to a large extent’.