'Road closures are forcing us out of business'

“It’s heartbreaking. I’ve worked hard to build this business up - now I feel like it’s crumbling around me.”

Fran Bateman is just one of many small business owners in Herefordshire telling the same story.

She has run Coco’s Café in Froomes Hill, just off the main A4103, for two years - but now she says a major resurfacing scheme is threatening to put her out of business.

“I was 50 per cent down on takings last week, and 70 per cent this week,” she said.

“Yesterday, we took £28 in eight hours. It’s ridiculous.”

The £8m resurfacing project to the north and west of Hereford city centre affects main roads including the A4103, which runs past the Red Lion, as well as the A465, and A438.

The A4103 is due to be closed completely from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, for two months.

The roadworks are due to last eight weeks. Credit: ITV News Central

Next door, at the Army and Outdoor Supplies store, Kevin Latimer is suffering a similar drop in earnings.

I usually take around £3,000 a week - that’s down 70 per cent. It’s taken me 18 months to get it to this point. I feel like I’ve been hit with an eight-week smack in the face.

– Kevin Latimer, Army and Outdoor Supplies

While the rolling closure only affects a small section of the road at a time, signs warn of road closures at either end of the 13-mile stretch, which the companies say is putting potential passing traffic off venturing down.

And they fear the work could stretch on for longer than eight weeks, as a letter from Balfour Beatty - the contractor used by Herefordshire Council - and seen by ITV News Central reveals the road surfacing used cannot be laid in bad weather conditions.

Steve Moorman and Viki Kuhlke, who run the Red Lion Pub, say they have been forced to lay off staff due to the drop in income - and now wait until the road opens again at 6pm to start the day’s trading.

“We have to keep the fryers going, the fridges going - there’s no point opening in the day as we’re spending more money than we make,” Steve said.

Viki added: “It’s absolutely ridiculous.

"To be told in a letter that they can’t put down the road surface when it’s wet or cold - so that’s dry cold as well - in England, in the autumn, seems absurd.”

Credit: ITV News Central

In a statement, Herefordshire Council said:

[We have] secured £5 million from the Department for Transport towards an £8 million project to improve road conditions on strategic 'A' roads in the county. The funding has meant we can resurface 37 miles of road on key transport routes, which includes the A4103 Hereford to Worcester road.

This is the most significant investment into Herefordshire's 'A' roads for over twenty years. We recognise that significant road improvement work can cause inconvenience to businesses and residents, including those on the A4103 and we have tried to minimise disruption by progressing works quickly and safely.

Balfour Beatty Living Places has been working on our behalf to keep the local community informed, however the delivery of works on this scale does lead to some unavoidable inconvenience, for which we can only apologise.

– Herefordshire Council

Balfour Beatty Living Places spokeswoman Cassie Farrar said the surface was only affected in temperatures below 4C.

The safety of our workforce and the travelling public is always our top priority. A full closure is necessary as the road is not wide enough to provide a safe space for those undertaking the resurfacing works, together with the safe passage for all types of vehicle.

We understand that businesses and residents may experience some inconvenience whilst the improvement works take place, however we hope that all will recognise the extensive benefits the works will deliver to the local community and local economy.

– Cassie Farrar, Balfour Beatty Living Places