Date revealed for end of works to pedestrianise part of Wolverhampton city centre

Major work to pedestrianise part of Wolverhampton city centre will likely be completed by the end of March, council chiefs have said.

Victoria Street earlier this month
Victoria Street earlier this month

Roadworks have plagued Victoria Street under the £15.7 million scheme with the route being closed off to traffic in January last year.

It has led to shops closing down on the route and other business raising concerns about their future after trade was heavily impacted.

But now chiefs have confirmed the route will be opened on or around March 22 this year, subject to weather conditions, when the project is completed.

Councillor Steve Evans, cabinet member for environment and climate change, told a full council meeting on Wednesday: "As has already been shared with the traders by our on-site liaison officer, the public realm improvements projects are expected to be completed on or around March 22, 2023, subject to weather conditions."

The update came after the Labour chief was questioned over the scheme by Councillor Simon Bennett, deputy leader for the Conservatives, who had been told the "substantial" works would be finished in February.

Councillor Bennett said: "You have failed to take residents with you on this project, failed to take businesses with you and failed to meet deadlines. Will you now publicly apologise to all the businesses in the city centre for the huge disruption and loss of trade you've caused?"

Councillor Evans said the authority meets with traders regularly each month, an there was an expert financial advisor in placing helping the traders as he reiterated the completion date of around March 22.

"I'm not going to apologise for investing in Wolverhampton," he added.

The £15.7 million scheme will see Victoria Street permanently closed to traffic, a new public square built where Victoria Street meets Skinner Street and Bell Street, plus a box park and a new car park.

While the works are nearing the end, business owners around the area have spoken of business drying up, shops closing down and uncertainty about the future even after the work is done.

Several businesses have already closed their doors in the last year, including Toni & Guy just before Christmas, while others such as Bed Centre have spoken of a significant loss in trade, blaming the roadworks for it.

Bed Centre owner Pete Shergill said he had seen close to an 80 per cent drop in his turnover over the time the works had been going on and said he was worried about the future.

"During the main works, when the barriers were up, there wasn't really anyone walking down here as they couldn't get near the store," he said.

"And while there have been more people walking on the streets recently, they're just not buying anything.

"I have to hope that things will get better and I keep hearing about plans for a food hub or market along this street when it's all done, but it's difficult to be optimistic after the year we've had.

"There's been lots of promises, but nothing has happened yet, so I just have to wait and see what will happen in the future."

Caitlin-Jayne Stackhouse, director and manager at Tunwalls English Kitchen, said the works had had an effect on how many customers the cafe had seen at times, saying that a lot of regulars were put off by the works.

Along Victoria Street itself, there were a lot of empty shops and businesses with few people inside. Marie’s Hair and Beauty Salon had a few customers inside getting their hair done, owner Marie Camara said it had been a very bad time for the salon.

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