Anger as work begins to fix Belfast's £320k city centre paving fiasco
Furious Belfast businesses have warned of a "massive" hit to Christmas trade after work to fix a £320,000 resurfacing mess-up began.
Major construction took place this summer at Lombard and Rosemary Street in the city centre, which saw parts of the area being closed off during paving and Tarmacking work.
But grouting between the paving stones soon washed away, leaving them uneven and at risk of breaking.
It can now be revealed that work has begun to fix the serious mishap, which is expected to take up to six weeks.
It has prompted many concerns about noise, dust and disruption hitting shop sales.
One cafe owner said business dropped by 50% when the work was first carried out.
The "streetscape" project took three months between April and July to complete.
Yesterday, Caffe Uno on Lombard Street was once again battered by massive noise levels as workers began repaving the area just feet away from the business.
Annette McQuillan, who runs the cafe along with two others, said the work would once again hit footfall, which would be "frightening" for her business.
"The initial plans, graphics and consultation we had were completely different and superior to the end product," she added.
"There was a big impact on trade. We were looking at being down between 40% and 50%, when the street was closed off with limited access.
"My concern now is, obviously, once again the sound, the dust and the machinery.
"It's so off-putting for people and so uninviting for people to come down the street, which has an impact on footfall.
"We rely on passing trade, on footfall. We don't have the big advertising budgets.
"It's frightening as a business. We are struggling."
A council spokesman said the work would not come at any cost to the ratepayer, and the company responsible for the original job would complete the project.
But Nicole McLoughlin, who owns the Monico Bars on Lombard Street, also voiced fears.
"My main concern after it was finished was that it is not level," she said. "There are holes in the paving, which is a trip hazard. We lost a lot of trade because people were not coming in to the street."
Other businesses are not happy with the resurfacing work currently being undertaken.
Traders had been told the new work would start at the beginning of October, but it only began earlier this week. It is now expected to take five to six weeks to complete.
Traders are also worried that the project will not be finished in time for a cut-off on roadworks during the Christmas rush in the city centre.
"I think the works will stop - however, whether or not they are going to be completed by then is a different matter," Ms McQuillan said.
"There are people who think this shouldn't have been started. I still don't think it's satisfactory."
William Ferris, manager of McNeilly's Jewellers, also on Lombard Street, said he was worried about a lack of access to his store because its busy pre-Christmas period has already begun.
"It is the whole trade factor," he added. "Once they hit our window, it stops people from getting to our window.
"It's coming in to our busy period in the year. It's started now, and people are looking already.
"If they look down the street and see it blocked off by workmen, they are going to change their minds.
"We cannot afford to not be busy. These next two months are crucial."
The repaving was funded by the former Department for Social Development.