No compensation for angry shopkeepers in Kirkby town centre

"WE ARE HEADING FOR BANKRUPTCY" -- Tim Levers, of the Lowmoor News shop in Kirkby.
"WE ARE HEADING FOR BANKRUPTCY" -- Tim Levers, of the Lowmoor News shop in Kirkby.

Shopkeepers have reacted angrily to the rejection of compensation claims for loss of trade during improvement work in Kirkby town centre.

They say they have been badly affected by the upheaval caused by work on Ashfield District Council’s £1 million scheme, which started eight months ago and won’t be completed until the summer.

Encouraged by the council’s promise to consider supporting businesses who faced hardship, two Lowmoor Road traders hired accountants to submit formal claims for compensation. But now Tim Levers, of Lowmoor News, and Neil Huntley, of Reaching Out Mobility, have been told they won’t receive a penny.

“We are heading for bankruptcy,” despaired Mr Levers (48), who runs the newsagent’s shop with wife Carolina (39). “Businesses here are really struggling, and some have already closed.

“There is no justification for the council’s decision. They say they are trying to regenerate the town centre, but they are destroying it.”

Lowmoor News has been hit by a 30% drop in trade mainly because the area’s main car park has been removed. “But who wants to shop on a building site anyway?” asked Mr Levers. “Certainly not elderly people.

“I know the council has no legal responsibility to compensate us, but they have a moral responsibility. They haven’t even offered a temporary reduction in rent. Even if we see a significant increase in trade once the project is finished, it will take us at least two years to get back to where we were.”

The scheme, which has been part-funded by developers and Europe, will include a plaza to stage events, artworks and statues.

On behalf of Ashfield, Coun Chris Baron (Lab), who was council leader before last week’s elections, asked traders to expect some short-term pain before cashing in on long-term gain.

“I doubt very much the work has made considerable difference,” said Coun Baron. “But if we were to budget for compensation in all our improvement schemes, it would be unlimited. And substantiating who has lost what would be hard to quantify.

“Our contractors have worked through the night to minimise inconvenience. We have to look to the future. In the long term, all the traders will benefit tremendously.”