UPDATE 5.30pm: REGIONAL Roads Victoria is doing all it can to minimise disruption to White Hills businesses affected by the Napier Street upgrade, northern region director Brian Westley has promised.
“We’re making sure there's plenty of nearby parking for customers and clear access to businesses during the day,” he said.
His comments come after Loaded Plate Cafe owner Sharon Chibnall decided to close the doors to her business on Friday, citing difficulties maintaining business during the road works.
“We're saddened to hear this news and will continue to work with local businesses to support their needs as best we can while we carry out these vital works,” Mr Westley said.
The Bendigo Advertiser was told the upgrades were on track to be completed by mid-2019 and were ‘progressing well’.
Having completed major works between Willman Ct and Hamelin Street, building drainage between Hamelin and Lyons Streets is understood to be the focus of the latest phase of the project.
Regional Roads Victoria has no plans to offer compensation to traders throughout the Napier Street upgrade.
An advertising campaign was recently launched to promote White Hills businesses while the works were underway.
Regional Roads Victoria has committed to continue supporting local businesses through advertising until the upgrade is complete.
The Bendigo Advertiser was told the VicRoads division was providing weekly works updates via email and meeting with traders to discuss what had been completed and what was upcoming.
However, a query about the visual representation promised to traders in August was not answered.
Regional Roads Victoria defended changes to parking, which it said were necessary to accommodate key features of the upgrade, such as additional traffic lanes.
It is understood to be working with Public Transport Victoria to ensure the impact of the Napier Street works on bus stops was minimised and patrons were aware of any changes to services.
The number of cars travelling along Napier Street each day during the works has been estimated at 19,000.
Further details about the project are available from the Regional Roads Victoria website.
EARLIER: HAVING frontage on Napier Street used to be an advantage for The Loaded Plate Cafe in White Hills.
But after 12 months of road works affecting the flow of traffic – and business – to the area, cafe owner Sharon Chibnall decided enough was enough.
The 15-year-old business closed its doors on Friday afternoon.
Ms Chibnall was hopeful the income from her catering business and conference facilities would enable her to re-open in the new year.
But she was frustrated and devastated by what she said the road works had reduced her business to in the past 12 months.
She has had to let go of her staff – loyal employees Ms Chibnall said had already endured reduced hours since the road works started.
Trade at the Loaded Plate Cafe has been at a level comparable with when it first opened.
“It hasn’t been worth opening,” Ms Chibnall said of recent weeks.
She last week told the Bendigo Advertiser she was considering closing the business until the part of the upgrade happening right outside her door was complete.
But she had been hoping she would be able to sustain trade until the cafe closed for the festive season.
“We just couldn’t get there,” Ms Chibnall said.
She said she was supportive of the Napier Street upgrade: “The road, we knew, had to happen.”
What she said she hadn’t realised was how long the project would take.
Ms Chibnall said the timelines VicRoads originally provided had changed.
“The dates they had up – the December dates – they’ve been taken down,” she said.
Business owners affected by the works had been seeking clarity from VicRoads about how long the works would take, and which sections would be affected, when.
VicRoads agreed at a meeting in August to provide business owners with a visual representation of what would be occurring, when and where. But Ms Chibnall said she had yet to receive a map, diagram or layout.
She said she had expected the road works to affect her business, but described the experience as ‘a debacle’.
Changes to the road, to bus stops and to parking created barriers to accessing the businesses, despite the best efforts of regular customers.
She said she had called on VicRoads to provide late and weekend works during the past 12 months to speed up the works.
The longer the upgrade took, the more difficult it became to maintain trade.
“The effect it’s having on businesses along this road… it’s terrible,” Ms Chibnall said.
“Everyone’s feeling the pinch.”
She rejected suggestions the slump in business was a ‘sign of the times’.
“I know what my business is like,” Ms Chibnall said.
“My shop… it’s never gone backwards. It’s always had that steady, little climb each year”.
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