As established shop owners in town, we would like you, the reader, to imagine the following scenario. It’s early May and you’re popping in to town, armed with a list of things to do. It’s all fairly straightforward, you know where you’ll park, you’ve planned your route and you’re aiming to be free to meet friends at lunchtime.
First stop will be the pharmacy to collect your meds. As usual, you can park in High Street and cut through. Then you’ll nip along the road and order flowers for collection on your way home. And, as you’re in the area, a quick check on what’s new in the ceramics shop is quite justified. Hopefully, time for a quick coffee across the road, before popping into the baby shop to buy something special for the new grandchild. Husband, meanwhile, is in High Street booking bikes for your cycling friends who are coming for the weekend. He’ll probably go to the barber nearby, nip into the wine shop for a few essentials, and then pick up your sewing alterations.
By then you’ll have your batteries recharged, you’ll move the car and park right outside the bookshop – then you can also feed your soul. Woolies is round the corner, flowers can be collected, next stop… home, mission accomplished!
So, with this plan in mind, you set off, all going well till… whoa, what the..? You can’t get into High Street, and now everything goes wrong. It’s blowing a gale, raining heavily and you’re stuck in a row of cars, each with equally frustrated drivers. You’ve no idea where you can park, everyone’s looking for spaces. Like Google maps, your mind is scrambling to re-route your trip. At last you find a parking space, but it’s nowhere near where you want to be. You get out of your car, and just as you thought you might be okay, you hear a cacophany of rumbling, heavy equipment, excavators, earth-moving machines, drills, skip loaders etc.
Suddenly, all the shopping seems too much, especially having to carry everything. Coffee might help restore one’s sanity, but do you really want to sit in a coffee shop with all that noise, vibration, dust and dirt? You have a chat with one of the shop owners who tells you this upheaval will be going on for a long time, approximately 6 months in High Street, and a minimum of 6 weeks in a chunk of Main Road. Storm water drains need to be replaced to prevent flooding.
Then you simply have to ask the owner: “How on earth are you going to survive all of this on top of the last 14 months? Businesses have already suffered due to the poor economy. The impact of Day Zero on the Western Cape was huge as the tourists avoided Cape Town and surrounds. There were increases in VAT and fuel, there were strikes and protests. And now this in election month and beyond?”
The owner tells you that they asked for a postponement of the work for two years, to allow the town to settle and business to recover. He says that the development of the CBD is welcome, but doing the road works now is not. The issues can be viewed separately. According to local specialist engineers, there are alternative ways to control the flooding in the interim. Surely for the future of the town, these MUST be considered?
So, we, business owners who are also residents, shoppers and concerned locals, ask that this work be postponed. And we echo YOUR thoughts… upgrades NOT disruptive? It could hardly be worse!
We pay our rents, rates and taxes, and now we may pay with our livelihoods.
Pipe dreams will be a nightmare.