Emergency roadworks close down Fishergate as council investigate road surface issues
Preston's Fishergate has been temporarily closed off for 'emergency repairs' whilst the council investigate underlying reasons for uneven surfaces and crushed flagstones.
But business owners worry as the works, being carried out by Lancashire County Council, come less than three weeks before non-essential retailers are due to reopen after a turbulent year of closures.
They are investigating whether there are "underlying issues" that have caused the road surface to deteriorate before beginning repairs.
The council has confirmed it hopes to be finished by April 9, just three days before the long-awaited reopening of retail.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: "We have closed a short section of Fishergate between Lune Street and Mount Street for emergency repairs due to the surface having rapidly deteriorated over recent weeks.
"Initially we are investigating whether there is some underlying issue which has caused this, and once this is resolved, will be replacing the paving like-for-like to ensure this area continues to look good.
"We have scheduled three weeks for the work to take place in case of any delays, however expect to be able to complete the repairs well within this time.
"A diversion is in place for most vehicles via Lune Street and Ringway and Corporation Street, with buses services between the bus station and the railway station taking a more direct route via Ringway and Corporation Street.
"Access is being maintained to Mount Street for residents throughout the work.
"We're sorry for any inconvenience and grateful for people's patience while we carry out this essential maintenance."
Photos taken by the Post show crushed pave stones and uneven road surfaces along the high street.
Uneven road surfaces have remained an issue since the Central Gateway project was first unveiled in 2014, when £3.4 million was plunged into Fishergate’s "shared space" road scheme.
And the Post reported last year that five-and-a-half years of heavy traffic resulted in uneven footpaths and damaged carriageway that required maintenance repairs.
Coun Salim Desai, who represents the city centre on Preston Council said: "There seems to be so much subsidence in the city centre and the paving stones seem to keep moving. I wonder whether it is down to the works and repairs or actually underground problems with water seeping through.
"I think there is more to it and suspect there may be more underlying issues with the ground. Fishergate is very high ground and there are streams filtering through underneath which make the ground unstable.
"I think it needs some in-depth surveying and building back up from scratch so we get a decent one-off repair and money isn't continuously being spent on repairs that don't fix the problem.
He added that workmen should aim to finish the works before April 12, when the Government are reopening non-essential retailers.
He said: "We need to make sure the work is finished for when businesses reopen because we need to support them after being closed for so long, otherwise they could really suffer.
"The works were not done to a good standard to begin with, and now we are seeing the effect of that. If the ground isn't stable then we will continue seeing faults and having these problems which are made worse by the heavy delivery vehicles and buses that use the road.
Mark O'Rourke, the owner of Winckley Street Ale House said he fears that if the works aren't finished in time for April 12, when customers can finally dine outdoors again, that it would have a knock-on effect on business.
He said: "It's ridiculous to think that the council would start these works so close to the shops reopening when they have been closed for months on end.
"Preston is the biggest town in Lancashire - surely they should've realised what needed to be a priority and made sure it is going to be finished when it is going to be reopened.
"The style of the road surface on Fishergate just isn't suitable for a public highway, especially when the main course of traffic is heavy double-decker buses and delivery vans. It means it is just going to be repaired every few years until they come up with a more permanent fixed.
"From my point of view, I hope it doesn't affect footfall in Preston and my business after such a difficult year."
One shopper said pedestrians were caught out unawares by the road becoming two-directional in places, after years of being a one-way system.
He said: "I was almost hit by a car when I was crossing - you get used to only looking in one direction on Fishergate.
"It's dangerous for pedestrians if they don't know that it's changed."
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