Corby Old Village '˜like a ghost town'
Shop keepers in the historic heart of Corby say the once-busy Old Village is now like a ghost town after a major route into the area shut for months.
Business owners have appealed for people to come and use their shops after they experienced a huge drop-off in customer numbers since the bridge closed in January.
The closure means that traffic cannot travel from Cottingham Road to the Old Village. Instead, shoppers have to go around town and along Oakley Road, where they can use Station Road to access the village.
It is expected that the bridge will remain shut at least until the end of summer to allow for the electrification of the railway line.
Angie Spowart who runs Flowers and Things which has been open for 30 years in The Jamb says since the road was closed, her business is at its lowest ever ebb.
She said: “There’s really been a big difference. It’s like a ghost town.
“I got a lot of walk-ins before the bridge closed and I’m relying on my regular customers now. Christmas, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day have just about kept me going.
“I wasn’t able to pay myself a wage in January - I’ve just covered costs.
“We know they have to do the work but it needs better signage to let people know we’re open at the beginning of the diversion, not just at the bridge hidden behind their van.
“We need decent signs in Station Road and Elizabeth Street.
“I love what I do and I work really hard and I want to be able to stay open.”
Tin’s barbershop in High Street has also seen a major drop-off in customers since the road was shut. Owner Tin said: “We’ll have been open two years in June. It’s the first barbershop I’ve owned but I’ve been cutting hair for 17 years.
“Things were really busy until they shut the road.
“I didn’t even know that the road closure was happening until I opened the paper and read it. There was no consultation, no information given to local businesses and no compensation for loss of trade.
“I did put a bike with an advert at the other side of the roadworks but it was stolen.
“People say the signs telling them the bridge is closed and just turn around and don’t bother coming.
“I’ve not paid myself since Christmas now.”
But despite the road closure problems, Tin says her loyal customers are keeping her going.
Dave Hadden who runs the butcher’s in The Jamb said that after Bradbury’s Butcher in the town centre closed, he is the last remaining butcher in Corby. He said: “We would have noticed an upsurge in trade but we haven’t had one.
“We will be OK because we have regular customers but it’s quieter outside.”
Corby’s Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Beth Miller has also appealed for local people to use the shops in the Old Village or lose them. She said: “There’s so many lovely shops offering really unique gifts. I got a lovely pair of earrings for my mum’s birthday from Genevieve, and I love the rustic paint they sell in Much Loved. The flower shop, Flowers and Things also does some lovely bouquets.
“If you have any birthdays coming up can you pop into some of the shops to show your support and have a nosey?”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are carrying out work to Cottingham Road bridge as part of a Midland Main Line Upgrade.
“The bridge needs to be reconstructed to allow for the safe clearance of overhead line equipment. This work is scheduled to complete in August.
“Due to the nature of the work, Cottingham Road bridge is closed to vehicles and a clearly signposted diversion route is in place.
“A temporary bridge has been built to maintain access for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the work.
“We are keen to work with the local community and have already acted upon requests made by local traders to install ‘Open for Business’ signs following our public event in January.
“We have also installed furthers signs advertising the diversion for vehicles after we received complaints that some drivers were using a non-approved route.
“We are more than happy to install additional ‘Open for Business’ signs and would ask the local traders to contact the Network Rail National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41 to let us know where they would like these to be located.”