A village shop owner says he will withhold his business rates until heavy losses caused by a five-day road closure are recovered.
Gordon Moore, managing director of Border Reivers village store in Otterburn, Northumberland, says the county council should fully support traders who have suffered losses through the five-day closure of the A696.
The main road into the village was closed in both directions after a giant wind turbine transporter en route to the Green Rigg windfarm site near Ridsdale toppled into a roadside ditch early last Monday morning. It took until Friday evening to carry out recovery and repair – and even then a diversion sign north of the scene was accidentally left in place after the road-block was removed.
Mr Moore and other Otterburn traders are lining up a joint compensation claim against French-based EDF Renewables for loss of up to 50% of trade in the week.
But Mr Moore and his wife Joanne are concerned that Northumberland County Council is not giving them enough backing in their battle for recompense.
He said: “What we need is for the council grey suits not to be grey suits, to stop sitting on their hands, and to stand up to be counted.
“They have to support rural businesses but if we want to pursue any claim we are standing alone.
“I am going to stop paying my business rates until such time as there is an equitable resolution.”
Council network manager Dick Phillips said the traders would have to take any action against EDF Renewables, rather than the haulage contractors McFadyen’s of Campbeltown, Scotland.
He said: “If a utility causes damage, they are responsible – not the contractor who carries out their work.
“But the insurance company may not even pay, because they could say it’s neglect.”
Mr Phillips told a meeting of Otterburn traders five days ago that the council could offer technical advice on any compensation claim. Mr Moore added: “It was an avoidable accident and someone should be accountable.
“We have to keep this in the public eye and shame people into giving us the compensation for the losses we have suffered.”
After the closure scene was cleared of cones and road-signs on Friday afternoon, a 5ft diversion sign near Elishaw junction to the north was accidentally left in place.
“It would have stopped people coming into Otterburn from the north so I went out and removed it myself,” Mr Moore said.
“I now have it at the shop and the council is welcome to come and collect it any time they wish.
“As it turned out, on Saturday I got half of the trade that I had had in the previous five days, which shows how important it was to tell people that Otterburn was open again.”
Coun John Riddle said: “It was very unfortunate that for some reason they hadn’t taken the diversion sign down at the far end.
“Where the compensation claim is concerned, at Wednesday’s meeting they got some general advice, but it is up to the individual businesses to take their own action.”
We have to keep this in the public eye and shame people into giving us compensation for the losses
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