LIGHT is at the end of the tunnel for traders in Littlehampton who say they have been ‘trapped in a black hole’ for 18 months.
For more than a year, businesses in Pier Road have been struggling with reduced footfall as a result of the heavily-hampered riverside improvement scheme, led by the Environment Agency in partnership with Arun District Council and West Sussex County Council.
However, over the past few days, contractors have been completing the final stages of the pedestrian walkway and road, which are expected to be opened next week, depending on the weather.
The news has relieved business owners in the street.
Gloria Kavallierou, who owns 47 Mussel Row, said: “We were all hoping that they do get it opened up before Easter, so yes, we are delighted.
“We have been cut off for nearly 18 months. It’s been very difficult and has not been easy.
“We often called it a black hole. It was dark and grim, in the winter time especially. So it’ll be nice to finally be out of it.
She added: “It will be a hard sell getting people back.”
The facelift, once finished, will see new street furniture, lighting columns and coastal-style planting installed.
Michael Kavalieros, owner of the River Breeze, is also pleased the construction is coming to and end. However, he said many traders had fallen foul of hefty dips in trade, with his business suffering a 60 per cent fall at times, and was worried about whether he would be able to entice customers back.
He said: “To be quite honest we can’t wait to be able to get back to normality. The past 18 months have been so difficult for use. I have never ever had it so bad to be honest.”
He said during the course of the work he had lost members of staff, who he described as ‘valuable as gold dust’.
He also was unsure if the promised competition date would be met.
Councillor Terence Chapman, Arun’s cabinet member for environmental services, praised traders for their patience, adding: “The area has been completely transformed and we’re sure it will prove to be a real draw for locals and visitors alike, especially once the weather turns a bit warmer.”
The county council has improved the footpath in Pier Road and is resurfacing the road.
Pieter Montyn, the county council’s cabinet member for highways and transport said it was ‘great to see Pier Road re-opening’ adding it would be a ‘new era’ for the area.