Just when you thought it could not get any worse, Preston’s premier shopping street has been ripped up again...in time for Christmas.
After six months of traffic chaos, workmen are back on site for emergency repairs only weeks after the Fishergate ‘shared space’ project was unveiled.
Stage one of the £3.4m improvement scheme to jazz up the busy thoroughfare and make it pedestrian friendly was only completed in November much to the relief of drivers and shoppers.
But now ‘essential electricity work’ has meant newly laid flag stones have been torn up at the busiest time of the year.
Electricity North West have apologised for any inconvenience caused to shoppers.
A spokesman said: “We were called to disconnect a hazardous electricity supply, which meant we had to dig up the pavement outside the properties.
“We would like to apologise to customers for any inconvenience.”
The scheme which will be extended up Fishergate in the new year has been criticised by blind people, pram users and caused mass traffic chaos since the first stage from Preston Railway Station to Winckley Street was finished.
ENW said they will re-lay the flags and foot the bill for the damage but admitted the essential work may continue throughout the festive period.
A spokesman said: “This work was carried out for safety reasons and we will fully reinstate the pavement as soon as possible.
“We’re going to be carrying out further investigations.”
An angry businessman rang the Evening Post on Monday night livid at the thought of enduring further disruption on his daily commute.
Mr Baid, from Avenham, Preston said: “They are lifting up the brand new flags across from Debenhams, it is like deja vu.
“Fishergate has been a building site most of the year why can’t they leave it alone at Christmas?”
The second stage of the mass revamp is due to start in early 2015 and Lancashire County Council’s plan proposing traffic flows and layouts will be on show in the unit in between Marks and Spencer and Timpson on the ground floor of St George’s Shopping Centre on Thursday 11 December from 10am until 6pm.
But with mass disruption due to roadworks at Deepdale retail Park in November and with some spectacular Christmas lights recently unveiled Preston City Councillor Salim Desai admitted the timing was unfortunate.
And Mr Desai - who represents the town centre ward - admitted shoppers, residents and workers had every right to feel disappointed.
He said: “All the work has just recently been finished and we have just had information from the County Council saying how good the work looks with the Christmas lights.
“So it is disappointing to hear about the flags being dug up.
“It is bad timing.”
Paul Dunne, Lancashire County Council highways manager for Preston, said: “The county council has protected Fishergate from utility excavations for a number of years, however these are essential emergency works due to a business experiencing a loss of power.”
The County Council will not have to fork out to repair the flags as the electricity company will amend them.
And PCC councillor Drew Gale, ho also represents the town centre ward called for shoppers, workers and residents to be patient as more improvements are in the pipeline.
He said: “These works were needed, I just hope the electricity company put the flags back to the standard they were before.
“I’d urge people to be patient, there are more improvements to come.”
And Mr Dunne promised that LCC will ensure the flags are restored to the same quality and revealed they have stocked up on matching flags in case of more emergencies.
He said: “We’ll ensure that this is returned to its previous condition using the same high-quality materials.
“We have also retained a stock of materials should further unplanned emergencies arise in the future.”