TRADERS have told of their despair at the prospect of weeks of road works just as the city begins to take tentative steps out of lockdown.

Businesses in St John’s reacted with horror that plans for the major changes to St John’s and the Bull Ring are set to get underway in June - just as some of them think about reopening.

They say they have been hit hard this year by flooding and the enforced closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Worcestershire County Council, who are behind the scheme, say they are acting on government advice to start work now to take advantage of fewer cars and people around.

Richard Udall, city councillor for the area, said: “St John’s has suffered enough in 2020: first the floods and then lockdown, and just as shops and businesses are preparing to re-open they will be hit with massive traffic disruption and roadworks – it is simply too much, too soon.”

Colin Fitzgerald, postmaster at St John’s Post Office, said: “I’ve seen the signs go up telling everyone about the works.

“We have been running throughout the pandemic, providing a vital service to the community, including the elderly with their pensions.

“We also have vans from Royal Mail and Parcel Force coming and going - I will not be very happy if my business gets disrupted.”

A spokesman for the Bull Ring Chippy said: “Road works will not help the business. We’ve had flooding, coronavirus and now roadworks as well.”

Cllr Udall also claimed that businesses had not been consulted on the work to narrow footpaths, remove bus lanes and paint the highway brown. The work is due to start on June 1 and last eight weeks. However, the council says letters were sent out at the beginning of May.

Cllr Udall said: “The timing is awful. They [county council] did tell me that they would place details of the work in the library – I gently pointed out that it was closed.

“St John’s residents who will have to live with the changes, and local shops which front St John’s, should at least be given an opportunity to comment on what is being proposed. The changes should not be imposed upon them.”

Mr Udall added: “We govern by consent, we do not dictate to residents like some kind of benevolent dictator - the people of St John’s deserve a say in what is going to happen, local government should not be afraid of basic consultation.”

A spokesperson for Worcestershire County Council said: “The St John’s scheme is designed to reduce congestion by removing pinch-points and updating traffic signals, improve pedestrian crossing facilities and enhance the public realm through improvements to footways and street furniture.

“In line with Government advice, the work is starting now to take advantage of the reduced number of vehicles and pedestrians. Letters giving advanced notice of the works were sent to nearby properties at the start of May and there has been close liaison with bus companies that operate in the area.”

The first phase of work requires the relocation of utility companies’ infrastructure and this work will begin on June 1. Temporary traffic signals will be introduced to manage traffic.

The spokesman added: “All work will be carried out in accordance with the Highway Sector’s Site Operating Procedures with regard to social distancing and the control of Covid-19.”

“More detail on the scheme will be available on the County Council’s website next week and we would encourage residents and businesses to provide their feedback on the proposals.”