BUSINESSES in Lyme Regis were stunned when they learnt they may face temporary closure due to the current gasworks.

Both Coombe Street and Monmouth Street will be closed intermittently over the next three months as Southern Gas Networks digs up the roads carry out their gas mains replacement programme, which will see the old iron pipes replaced with plastic ones.

There are fears that lorries trying to make deliveries to businesses on Coombe Street could lead to traffic disruptions, and residents may also be without gas if SGN have to replace the residential pipes.

Clive Cobb, who manages the Town Mill Bakery, said he didn't know about the road closure until he saw the diversion sign on Monday morning.

Mr Cobb said: “It came as a total surprise to me and to some other businesses in the street. The first I knew about it was when the yellow sign was put up at the bottom of the road.

“It will have a big impact on my business. They have told us that they will have to turn the gas off to our building at some point in the next few weeks, which will mean we will probably have to close.

“Not only that, but it will stop people coming down the street. Assumption is the mother of all confusion, and people will walk down from the town, see the road closed sign and will turn round and not come down the street because they will think all the other businesses are closed as well.”

Mark Evans, owner of Tierra Kitchen, will have the gas to his building cut off tomorrow (Friday Jan 17).

He said: “I didn't have a clue about it until the end of last week when the signs were put up.

“It will massively affect me. I did think we would be forced to close but we are going to try and stay open, it is not convenient at all.

“It's not going to be very nice with the jack hammers going outside the window, but we will have to grin and bear it.”

Several businesses will also face difficulty in accepting deliveries as they cannot get down the street, and face the prospect of having to carry their deliveries from across the road when the lorries arrive.

The work will be completed in three phases. Phase one will force the closure of the bottom half of Coombe Street for three weeks, phase two will close the whole of Monmouth Street from February 3 for three weeks and phase three will see the closure of the top half of Coombe Street for five weeks from February 24.

Traffic will be diverted via Church Street Hill Road, Broad Street and Bridge Street.

The project, part of SGN's national replacement programme, will last for 11 weeks and will cost the gas company £75,000.

SGN Construction Manager Garry Percival said: “All our work is being carried out in close consultation with Dorset County Council and we will be doing everything we can to reduce disruption.

“I would like to apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused by our work.

"We understand that people can get frustrated by roadworks, however, the new plastic pipe has a minimum lifespan of 80 years.

"This means that when the work is complete, people will continue to enjoy the benefits of a safe and secure gas supply for years to come.”

Lyme Regis Town Councillor Chris Clipson said: “If main services need repairing and replacing we would accept that it is better to do that in the winter months when it is much quieter in the summer months.”