Road closure postponed but fears about pending impact still remain
The closure of the main road between Congleton and Biddulph for resurfacing work is going to have a “massive impact”, businesses have said amid safety concerns about the short cut drivers will take.
Biddulph Road in Congleton is to close for a week from Monday, 26th October, to Monday 2nd November, the autumn half-term holiday.
The stretch affected is from the junction with Boundary Lane, Mossley to the other side of the Cheshire/Staffordshire border heading towards Whitemoor in the direction of Biddulph.
Signs had previously been put up along the road to say the work was due to start at the beginning of September but it was put back so the closure did not clash with the return of schools after the summer break.
The Castle Inn and Beech Motor Company on Biddulph Road said the first staff knew about the closure was when signs appeared on the road and they have spoken of their concern about the impact on trade, especially as they attempt to recover from the lockdown.
Biddulph councillor Andrew Hart said he feared drivers would use Mow Lane as a short cut, which he said was a “very dangerous” route and that 500-600 vehicles a day could use it while the road was closed.
The official diversion is through Congleton, along the A34 Newcastle Road to the Red Bull traffic lights, up through Kidsgrove and Goldenhill, along James Brindley Way onto the A527 Biddulph Road and vice versa.
Coun Hart said: “It was supposed to be closed for 10 days at the beginning of September but Cheshire East Highways told me that has been postponed because it coincided with the schools going back.
“It gives Staffordshire police and Staffordshire Highways a bit of breathing space as neither was aware it was happening in the first place, but the closure will be happening.”
He said the alternative routes to Biddulph would be Nick i' th' Hill and down Mow Lane.
“It's already a preference route home for a number people, so you would have 500-600 cars an hour going down there during the road closure and it's very dangerous route, but the police don't know anything.”
Coun Hart made this appeal to drivers using that road: “Please be careful when you go on Mow Lane because it's not fair on residents”.
He said the diverted traffic getting to Biddulph would also use Akesmoor Lane, Halls Road and Wedgewood Lane, adding: “All are going to be extremely busy”.
Martin Holmes, managing director of Life and Soul, which runs the Castle Inn as well as Rumba in Congleton and Macclesfield, said: “Signs went up to say there would be a full road closure from 1st September for 11 days. We were given no notice about that. We were ordering stock and had staff on rotas.
“I checked on the one.network website and it showed a full road closure was scheduled from 1st December. When I rang Cheshire East, they said that was a mistake.
“I told them I wasn't happy about it as we were given no notice and I was told to send an email outlining my concerns.”
Mr Holmes added: “Cheshire East Highways phoned me last Tuesday to say the road would be closed from 26th October to 2nd November, which is half term week for schools.
“It's not ideal. We just had Eat Out To help Out which was fine but we have seen and continue to see a drop in demand. Half-term is traditionally a busy week for us. There is not a lot we can do.”
Highways had told Mr Holmes that during that week the road would be closed from 8am-5pm while in September the closure would have been 9.30-3.30pm, which he described as a “double-edged sword”.
“The closure will present issues for us. We need to get the dray wagon here for beer deliveries as well as small HGVs, which deliver food - that will cause a headache,” he said.
He said he had been assured that cars would have access to the Castle Inn, adding: “It's not ideal because there is a long diversion route. It's going to kill our business during the half-term week. We will have to consider whether it's worth opening at all during the day or not.”
“We've just survived the pandemic and lockdown and getting back on our feet, and now the road outside is going to be closed for a week, which will have a huge impact on business.
“We've got staff who live in Biddulph who also work at our other establishments. It's a very important route and to shut it completely means they will have a long diversion.
“We'll be endeavouring to stay open at The Castle. As soon as we get more information and learn more about what the impact will be, we will put details on our website.”
Further down Biddulph Road, Beech Motor Company staff were also bracing themselves for the effect of the pending road closure.
Sales manager Jarrod Glover said: “We rely on the internet for car sales and customers come here from all over the country. The closure will have a massive impact.
“We sell around 50 vehicles a month and if people can't reach us for a week it's going to mean a big loss of revenue. It will have a massive impact on business, especially with the current situation with the pandemic, which has meant customers only want to make one journey to come here.”
For enquiries about roadworks, Cheshire East Council's website takes users to one.network, an online platform “to plan, monitor, communicate and analyse traffic disruption”.
A map of the local area displays icons along routes showing where roadworks are taking place, or are planned.
According to the Biddulph Road information, updated on 3rd September, the route will be closed from 26th October to 2nd November for resurfacing works and that emergency access will be maintained.
Click on another icon on the route map and there is reference to a road closure from 5th oct-30th April for highways maintenance/improvement works, dates to be confirmed and that the closure is in force all the time.
A Cheshire East Council spokesperson said: “The works have been postponed as part of Cheshire East Council's decision to assist schools and their pupils to get to school unhindered, following the disruption and impact of covid-19.
“We always seek to communicate closures and roadworks in advance in a timely manner. However, schools were not open so we could not forewarn them. The resurfacing works are now scheduled for the end of October.
“The police and other authorities are informed of works if they will be affected by closures. Staffordshire network has been informed of the works.
“Our approved diversion route for the closure can be found at www.one.network/?tmi16272815.
“This diversion does not include Mow Lane.”