Ballymena traders' fury as roadworks hit Christmas trade
Furious business owners in Ballymena have blasted ongoing roadworks which are having a disastrous effect on vital Christmas trade.
Major streetscape works are being carried out across the Co Antrim town - slowly - despite it being the busiest time of the year.
Plastic barriers have been erected on several routes and outside businesses, restricting access to some.
It is understood the traders have already met this month to discuss the long-standing problems.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard imposed a "roadworks embargo" in both Belfast and Londonderry in the run-up to Christmas.
The department said it did not have the power to halt works elsewhere.
Carole McKenna, owner of the newly-refurbished Grouse Inn, said there was now a large crater at the entrance, giving customers difficulty accessing the restaurant. She said: "We have about three feet to work with at the main door. The crater is about 35 feet by 15 feet."
She added it was having a direct impact on trade, especially for parents with prams, who were finding it "impossible".
"We have totally renovated the Grouse," she explained.
"It's slippy and muck is being trekked through the business.
"We have also had to get people in to sand our floor."
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the NI Independent Retail Trade Association, said the works were proving a real pain for businesses.
"It has caused great disruption and people have lost significant amounts of trade," he added.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: "While an embargo was in place in 2015, the works at that time were significant throughout the town with large sections in open excavation impacting on all users, including on roadway and traffic flows.
"Council reviewed the current work left to do with the professional team to assess potential impacts to individual business property and concluded that work could continue on corners and small areas in order to complete the current contract.
"Council have moved significantly to assist our retail sector including the omission of works at Broadway, which will be delivered next year under a separate contract."
The council added that works were "carried out at night, accommodating late night shopping hours and reinstated to be fully functioning by the following morning".
"Currently, the works are being conducted in a limited number of areas," it said.
"Transport NI implements an embargo on their key transport corridors, which does not impact the current work being undertaken."