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Shop closure fears over dangerous building alert – BBC News

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  • By Colin Colthart & Giancarlo Rinaldi
  • BBC Scotland, Dumfries

Image caption, Friars Vennel is one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Dumfries town centre

Traders on a Dumfries street say they fear they could be put out of business by an emergency road closure due to an unsafe building.

Work on a property at the top of Friars Vennel found parts of it were in a dangerous condition.

Businesses in the area say they fear poor signage and the closure will dramatically reduce their trade.

Dumfries and Galloway Council (DGC) said public safety was its main concern followed by minimising disruption.

Image caption, The route has been shut after a building was found to be in a dangerous condition

The local authority said that work was being carried out at 114 to 116 Friars Vennel – occupied by Cancer Research UK.

It said contractors Broatch Construction had advised them the building was unsafe and they required an emergency closure.

It means access from the High Street end of the road is shut with pedestrian access available only from nearby Irish Street.

The closure is expected to last for about four weeks, prompting fears from local businesses about the impact on trade.

Image caption, Carolann Cameron fears shops could go out of business due to the road closure

Carolann Cameron of the Treasure Chest said: “There’s absolutely no access, most of the footfall comes for the High Street, people coming up are going to be completely deterred by the signage at the bottom.

“It says no access pedestrians – people are going to misinterpret that.

“We are a small business, we rely on footfall, this is devastating, absolutely devastating.”

She said she did not blame the workmen carrying out the repairs but said someone had to be held accountable.

“We are facing serious, serious problems here – financial problems,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, what business you have got, we are all independent people and this seriously could close some of us.”

Image caption, Hugo Ho said signs did not let people know that businesses were still open

Hugo Ho said his Tech Repair Centre was also heavily reliant on passing trade.

“Without the access from the top side, it’s going to be very detrimental because people are not wanting to go right round the outside of the buildings up to the Vennel to see us,” he said.

“The closure at the bottom end makes things a lot more ambiguous with the wording.

“People read that and they can easily misinterpret that the businesses here are just closed.

“There is no sign saying that the businesses on the Vennel are operating as normal or anything like that to even to help show support.”

Image caption, Andrew O’Brien said the closure could push people to use other shops

Andrew O’Brien from Sarto tailors said it was “obvious” that it was going to cause difficulties.

“A lot of our customers utilise the public services like the bus and whatnot,” he said.

“They maybe don’t necessarily drive, so having to ask them to walk right the way round down Buccleuch Street and up Irish Street to get to the shop – I don’t know if it’s going to put a lot of people off, I think time will tell.

“It’s certainly going to be a difficult time for all the businesses, especially the ones that do rely heavily on foot traffic and passing trade.”

He said that blocking up one access to the Vennel could push people to other shops.

“If people can’t get in, there’s no way they’re going to walk right the way around to then go and get their messages, they’ll go to other businesses.”

Image caption, Work to make the building safe is expected to take four weeks

The council stressed that the work required was the responsibility of the property owners.

“The safety of members of the public is DGC’s paramount concern,” it added in a statement.

“Minimising disruption to local businesses, residents and motorists comes next.

“Any road closures or reopenings are subject to Broatch Construction’s timescales for the work and our officers are working closely with the contractor to ensure we take the appropriate measures at the right time.”

‘Top priority’

Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Scotland, Lisa Adams, confirmed its shop – in a building it did not own – was currently shut for renovations.

“It was recently discovered that there is an issue with a gable wall that must be addressed,” she said.

“We immediately reported this to DGC who took the decision to close part of the street off.

“We understand fully why safety has to be the top priority and their reasons for doing so at this time.”

It is the second time in 18 months that a main route through the town centre has had to close due to building safety fears.

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