Traders in a festive fury

Dunsdale Road leading on to Muthag Street in Selkirk to be closed for four weeks.
Dunsdale Road leading on to Muthag Street in Selkirk to be closed for four weeks.

Beleaguered retailers in Selkirk are counting the cost of a protracted road closure in the run-up to Christmas.

Dunsdale Road, which offers access to more than 50 commercial enterprises, including a dozen retail outlets, has been closed at its northern end since November 24.

Less than a week’s notice was given of the move, which is required because of groundwork complications with the laying of a new sewerage main – part of the preparatory work for Scottish Borders Council’s £31million Selkirk flood protection scheme.

Motorists coming from Galashiels and the north have had to negotiate a winding 1.5-mile diversion – through the town centre and via the temporary one-way system on Yarrow Terrace and Buccleuch Road – to access the businesses from the other end.

One of the affected companies – outdoor clothing and equipment supplier The Cow Shed – has reported an 80 per cent drop in takings over what should be its busiest period of the year.

“Our footfall dropped off a cliff as soon as the road closed and all our neighbours have had the same experience,” said Cow Shed boss Richard McGill.

Another firm hit by the closure is tartan specialist Lochcarron of Scotland, which has a mill shop and café on Dunsdale Road. Retail manager Jill Richardson told us: “It has affected our business substantially, with shoppers, especially those from out of town, having no idea how to get to us.”

Both are critical of the council for not providing signs at key points along the diversion route to say the retailers in Dunsdale Road are still open for business.

“Given the scale and cost of the flood protection project, I would have thought it reasonable for the council to provide these signs,” said Mr McGill.

“Up until this week, all we had was ‘road closed’ signs at each end of the road. They added more diversion signs on Monday, but there’s still nothing to say we are here and open for business.”

Ms Richardson added: “It’s as if no one knew there were retail businesses down here. It feels like we’ve not been given a second thought.”

An SBC spokesperson said on Tuesday: “The signs are the responsibility of the council and four additional signs were placed around Selkirk today to highlight the diversion routes to be used to access the businesses.”

Apart from a small standing sign put out by Lochcarron, at the time of going to press there were still no signs indicating the businesses were open and could be accessed.

However, the council did offer a crumb of comfort to the disgruntled firms who had been advised that the road would reopen for the festive holiday next Friday, December 19 – and close again in the new year.

The council spokesperson said: “Conor Price [the flood protection project manager] is adamant the road will only be closed until December 19. If there are additional works required in January, it will be controlled with traffic lights rather than a full closure.”