ROADWORKS being carried out in a town centre in the lead-up to Easter are damaging seasonal trade and causing concern to neighbouring villages, it has been claimed.

Work to upgrade Bridport’s busy East Road roundabout started last week, when Dorset Highways began renovating it to improve pedestrian facilities and modernise its lighting and kerbing.

The work is being funded by Highways England, which is responsible for the A35 trunk road.

Highways England is also carrying out drainage works on the same stretch, under a separate scheme.

Motorists have reported long delays and queuing traffic in what was the first of 13 weeks’ work.

David Hawkins, of Bridport Tyre and Auto Repair Specialists, based on East Road, claims he’s already seen a negative impact on his business.

He said: “I’ve been here 29 years and this is really affecting my business. It’s upsetting – customers are ringing up to say they just can’t get here. We weren’t consulted before it started and it seems it’s not been done with small businesses in mind. I don’t think the works should have been done at the same time, that way it might not have been so chaotic.

“Leading up to Easter we get more trade as there are more people. I think the work could have been done at a quieter time when it wouldn’t have affected us as much. To think there are 12 weeks to go – it’s unbelievable.”

Prior to the roundabout work, Dorset Highways warned drivers to allow extra time for journeys as approach lanes needed to be reduced down to one lane, slowing progress of traffic through the roundabout.

Phase one of the work will continue next week, when the approach lanes will remain reduced.

Walditch resident Valerie Barnes has raised concerns about traffic diverting through smaller neighbouring villages.

She said: “The inconvenience and disruption of traffic caused by the roadworks, especially during holiday periods, surely cannot be justified.

“Only a handful of local cyclists use the existing cycle paths.

“Walditch and other villages, which are used as diversions, are very concerned about the danger to pedestrians, especially children and animals, when vehicles come pouring through the narrow roads.

“The roadworks which are causing long delays on the A35 which, during peak holiday periods, will surely be detrimental to tourism for Bridport and surrounding areas for months to come.”

Highways England principal engineer, Nick Reed, said essential drainage work is being carried out ahead of resurfacing, which will take place later in the year.

“Following this work, local residents will benefit from an improved and quieter road surface,” he said.

“The work, which is weather dependent, will be completed before the main tourism season starts and we are pleased that we will be lifting the roadworks over the key Easter period.”

Mr Reed says drivers will be able to travel ‘without interruption’ from the work from April 18-29.

“We have worked with Dorset Council, who are also carrying out work on a cycling scheme in this area, to coincide our projects to ensure that the impact on the local community is kept to a minimum,” he said.

“We would like to thank local residents and drivers for their patience while we complete these projects."

Matthew Piles, service director for Environment, Infrastructure and the Economy, said:

“We notified many properties in the area about the roundabout works, however, we failed to notify some local businesses, which is unusual, and I’m looking into how this happened.

“We appreciate that traffic has been extremely busy, with lengthy delays at times, largely down to Highways England drainage works using two-way lights to control traffic further up A35 East Road.

“We are in contact with Highways England, as this road is managed by them, and it has contracted both sets of work, and notified them of the impact these works are having on local traffic.”

From April 14, a section of the B3162 East Road, from its junction with the A35, will be closed for five nights from 7pm to 7am, though Dorset Council anticipates work will be complete by April 16.