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Construction work on the re-development of Alexandra Square has encountered delays and caused disruption to businesses, a situation which could continue into next year.
The redesign of Alexandra Square and the underpass was originally set to take place over the summer holidays, but plans had to be pushed back and the construction during term time was becoming detrimental to the residents of the area. A spokesperson from the contracted firm behind the construction has said that the delays were due to changes in the planning as well as the winter weather.
Mark Swindlehurst, Director of Facilities, said that “the work on the rejuvenation of Alexandra Square and the underpass is progressing well.” He reasoned that “obviously the cold weather does not help and we envisage it will have an impact on the work but we are working with the contractors to maintain the programme where possible.”
With temporary fences causing diversions, some of the businesses set up in Alexandra Square have seen a sizeable reduction in custom. When asked about how the construction has affected trade, a member of staff from Robinson’s Newsagents replied: “Massively. We’re seeing a lot less students in here now and it’s not just us that have been affected.”
They also said that “the initial idea was to have the construction taking place over the holidays at times when students wouldn’t be here and we’re not sure as to why that’s not happened,” indicating little communication has occurred.
It is the feeling that the independent businesses on Alexandra Square feel like they aren’t getting any support from the University. Staff members at The Green Room Florists feel that some kind of compensation is needed for their losses and have said that nothing has yet been awarded. Other businesses have seen reductions in the levels of custom they are receiving. Waterstone’s have said that on Saturday 4 December, the main entrance had to be closed for construction and it was noticed that a severe loss of trade had occurred due to customers not being aware the shop was open using another door.
NatWest have also complained about the construction works. They were told that at one point there would be at least one of their ATM machines free at all times, however one staff member said that both were blocked off for an amount of time. Greggs, one of the none independent holdings on Alexandra Square, has not seen much of a change in trade stating that the only problems they are going through is the noise pollution.
Events such as the farmers’ market and Christmas Festival that would usually be located in Alexandra Square are this year located elsewhere. One stall member on the farmers’ market said that “the difference in business hasn’t been substantial as this is quite a busy area [outside LUSU], though not quite as busy as Alex Square tends to be”. Christmas Festival this year was located around the Bonnington Step opposite the Postgraduate Statistics Centre. Construction is scheduled to be finished by March 2011 with plans for an event to mark the re-opening.