Business owners in West London are concerned about their Christmas trading after roadwork delays could negatively impact them.
Hounslow councillors have been calling for roadworks in Chiswick to be postponed as worries grow that they could impact Christmas footfall for local businesses. Conservative ward councillors Joanna Biddolph, Ranjit Gill and Ron Mushiso have appealed to Ealing Council to delay work on the South Parade until after the holiday season to avoid adversely affecting a crucial period for retailers.
The South Parade which sits metres away from Hounslow’s border has had temporary traffic lights set up in either direction for maintenance lasting around 5 weeks according to Ealing Council. It is one of many roads in Chiswick which has seen lengthy and highly disruptive roadworks over the past few years.
The neighbourhood is split between authorities with the majority of Chiswick sitting in Hounslow and a smaller portion in Ealing. Alterations, improvements and upgrades to transport networks in the area are very rarely coordinated according to business owners and it has at times caused massive issues with traffic for local workers and residents.
In an email to Ealing Council, Cllr Biddolph wrote: “We, Hounslow’s Chiswick Gunnersbury ward councillors, urge you please to postpone the roadworks on South Parade…because of their damaging impact on Chiswick’s retail and hospitality businesses during what should be their best time of year – the run-up to Christmas.”
The works started on October 30 meaning they will likely spill into early December a period that business owners on both sides of the Ealing – Hounslow line say they are concerned about. Despite the councillors’ appeals, Cllr Biddolph informed Local Democracy Reporting Services (LDRS) that the works would go ahead.
There is a cluster of independent businesses that sit at the end of the South Parade which even at a quiet time of day was beginning to steadily fill with queues of cars. From the entranceway to the small car park with lines the front of the shops you can see the lilac barriers of the roadworks.
Flanked on either side by a boutique gift shop and a high-end salon The Post Room Cafe has an exceptional reputation amongst locals. While its selection of baked goods and extended veranda is a draw for coffee fans, the owner says that roadworks have given him a lot of grief.
“It takes me 4 times longer to get home is the primary problem,” he told LDRS amongst the hive of activity in the cafe. “Roadworks need to happen but it could have been more timely, it could have had a bit more notice.”
“We got a letter 2 days prior to the work starting, so that is just pretty poor communication. They can’t be doing roadworks in tandem with other roadworks that are happening in the council.”
“This is Ealing and that’s Hounslow and they are obviously just not communicating. Obviously, they are not communicating clearly and then you’ve got a nightmare as far as traffic is concerned.”
For the cafe owner the cumulative effect of traffic calming measures, roadworks and temporary closures has meant a trip from his shop to his home has gone from 10 minutes to sometimes up to an hour. “It was just madness,” he said.
As a cafe owner, the delays are more of an inconvenience than an existential and financial threat to his business which relies less on seasonal visitors. “It would certainly impact more traditional retailers rely on people driving to the shop.”
This is the reality for Turnham Arts & Crafts’ Nicky Mandal. Her shop sits just on the Hounslow side of the invisible divide. While The Post Room Cafe received a letter warning of upcoming disruption, Nicky says the same courtesy was not extended to her business.
For the bespoke shop, packed with everything from Bob Ross painter kits to sowing supplies, Christmas footfall is vital. “We are preparing for Christmas, November and December is a busy time for Christmas shoppers, so it would be good if they could have started [new roadworks] once everything has quietened down when people are not going out and spending money.
“Christmas is always a rush so they want easy parking and easy access and if they are stuck in traffic they are going to be like ‘Ugh, I can’t be bothered’.”
“They will go to a shopping centre or they will go online which is unfair to small businesses like us. We find that people come from all over because this is such a specialist shop.”
“On this small parade we have all individual shops, they are not chains,” Nicky says, “people find it hard to get to us when they are driving to come to us and there are queues and queues of cars and there is no parking.”
Nicky says that previous roadworks, this time on the Hounslow side, were “chaos” and affected footfall with people not having the patience to sit in traffic when they could buy stuff from the comfort of their own homes. She added: “So if the fact they are doing this in Ealing, it can affect things.”
The shop, which moved from Notting Hill, has been in Chiswick for 29 years and has seen the likes of David Hockney and Damien Hurst pass through its doors. However, a knock to Christmas revenue is a “massive” concern to Nicky. “November, December gets really busy. We are already starting to have customers coming in getting presents.”
“Since everything going on since the beginning of the year with the economy and everything going up it has affected our business a lot and now Christmas will make it up – at least a little bit.”
Moving down the street it becomes clear just how many small, boutique businesses populate the area. While the common British trope seems to place local retail in a state of steady decline Chiswick is a heartland for specialist butchers, organic grocers and sleek, modern delis.
It appears to be the ideal place to buy gifts for adults and kids alike. One eye-catching display ushers in the festive period with an intricate row of Victorian-style advent calendars.
Snap Dragon is an old-fashioned toy shop. It is already being decked out in Christmas finery, ready for the first few days of December by Fiona Wallis. She describes the transport situation in the area as a “nightmare”.
Fiona says the complications caused by different roads being closed at different times and maintenance that takes place on the Tube have caused many to be put off. “People just think ‘you know what, let’s not bother with Chiswick’.”
“You’ve got not Hammersmith Bridge, Chiswick Bridge is bad, Kew Bridge can be bad. You are getting more traffic. Brentford are in the Premier League, so you get people, if they are playing Liverpool, Luton or whoever, they’ll come down and stay over in a Travelodge or whatever but they are not going to come to Chiswick because it just looks a nightmare.”
“November is one of our better months. November and December. We are about 6 weeks out from Christmas, this is the time when we are going to be the majority of our annual trade. About 30 per cent of our annual turnover.”
Fiona says that she wasn’t even aware that roadworks were starting up on the South Parade because unlike her Ealing counterparts, she was not sent a letter. “[Ealing and Hounslow] seem to continually do [roadworks] they never seem to liaise at all.”
Postponing the work would be the right thing to do according to the business owner until January when it “is much quieter”. She also adds that she wished that the two councils would liaise better and do maintenance work “all at once”.
An Ealing Council spokesman said: “The current works on South Parade, relating to civil works to repair kerbs, footways and drainage, are not causing any delays and should not impact local businesses.
“We have not received any concerns from London Buses or the Emergency Services on this work and they are a good indication of whether or not there are any problems that we need to tackle.
“The next phase of resurfacing works, which is scheduled to take a maximum of 2 days, is planned for early December and we are expecting it will cause minimum disruption.
“In town centres and shopping, we tend to stop working on the highways 3 weeks prior Christmas. We work to inform neighbouring boroughs of any projects which we think might impact them.”