Gaol Ferry Bridge will now close ‘in early June’ with repair work to last five months, according to concerned traders in Wapping Wharf who are unhappy about the lack of clarity being provided over the project.
Bristol City Council is yet to give an update publically on the timeline for the start of work, having initially said it will start this month. But traders nearby have told BristolWorld that they have been told by the council it has been put back.
The businesses at Wapping Wharf say the trendy development of homes, independent shops and restaurants at the once-dilapidated Georgian shipyard face a threat to their future in the form of the temporary bridge closure.
Bristol City Council announced in January that Gaol Ferry Bridge, which thousands of people use each day to cross over the Avon New Cut from South Bristol into the city centre, would temporarily close for ‘vital’ repair and safety works.
And while it is now believed the project could take up to five months, down from eight months, there are serious concerns over the potential damage trade across the many shops, eateries and other businesseses that rely heavily on footfall from the bridge.
BristolWorld visited Wapping Wharf in February and the concern among business owners was palpable - one told us the move could be ‘devastating’, particularly for eateries who benefit from the morning commuter trade.
People were originally told the bridge would close in April until the end of the year, but it appears the start date has now been delayed.
Kevin Ramage, owner of Bookhaus near the CARGO unit, said that businesses still hadn’t been given an exact date so that they could prepare for the bridge closure, and that he found the lack of clarity ‘contemptuous’.
He said: “There are businesses that were already clinging on by their fingers because of the pandemic that will go under because of this.
“One business owner has estimated that around 50 per cent of their customers come from the bridge.
“Traders have been liasing with Bristol City Council and have been told the bridge will close in early June and the work will last five months - during the summer, which is our peak time.”
Mr Ramage said that suggestions had been put to the Council by traders to ease pressure on them, such as contractors working double shifts or on evenings and weekends to halve the amount of time the works need to be carried out.
“We haven’t receieved a response to that,” added Mr Ramage.
“The primary question for us is how the work can be expedited as quickly, not as cheaply, as possible.
“All the Council have offered to do is put signs up directing cusotmers to other bridges half an hour away, but nobody is going to cross them just to come back to Wapping Wharf. It’s all froth.
“We spent £100,000 on the infrastructure of the shop. Many of the businesses are paying the Council substantial rates.
“This won’t work out well for them either if they lose those rates because the businesses go under.
“I find it all contemptuous to be honest.”
Bristol City Council has been approached for comment.