TRADERS in Irvine’s town centre fear the council’s regeneration plans will ruin them after two businesses shut down this month.

Business owners in High Street and Bank Street fear they will have to close their doors because North Ayrshire Council’s £3.4million ‘Public Realm Improvements” are driving customers away.

Shop owners say they have lost 30 per cent of their takings in just two weeks since the first phase of the works begun and they claim Duncan’s butcher’s shop and Green’s Cafe in Bank Street have both shut down because of the town centre chaos.

Family-run Duncan’s and Son’s butcher shop had been in Bank Street for more than 54 years before it shut for good last month.

Green’s Coffee shop had been thriving for two years and closed it’s doors suddenly just two weeks ago.

Billy Frew, who owns Billy the Barber’s in Bank Street, says both businesses just couldn’t survive the loss of earnings caused by the road works.

He told the Times: “We have lost 30 per cent over the last two weeks. These works have to go on for 18 months and the simple fact is I can’t survive that long taking that hit.

“When this was all first announced they promised us monthly meetings where we could air our concerns and they would keep us updated, but it hasn’t happened. The council are putting all this money into regenerating the town but by the time they have finished there won’t be any shops left. These works killed Duncan’s because he lost 40 per cent of his takings. He had been there for over 50 years but no business can survive that.”

The works are scheduled to go on until November 2019, but Billy says, unless NAC step in and offer financial aid, it will be the death knell for Irvine’s town centre businesses.

He said: “We can’t survive this much longer, never mind 18 months. We are all small independent businesses but they haven’t offered us any financial assistance and we desperately need it or we will all close.”

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “Clearly we don’t want to see any local business struggling.

“We have set aside £250,000 to promote the town cent re shops and services, and a property repair or shopfront improvement scheme.

“We want retailers to work with us and inform how this budget is spent, and we will be holding a workshop to help retailers inform the plans.

“We hope that retailers recognise that following a period of some disruption a much improved environment will be provided which will encourage trade.

“We have communicated with retailers and local residents prior to work starting and will continue to do so throughout the duration of the works.

“We will hold a drop-in meeting in mid July and are in the process of confirming availability with the contractor, project manager and other staff to support this.

“The contractors Maclay Civil Engineering have a base in the Bridgegate and can be contacted for updates if required.

“They will also be sending letters to businesses as work progresses.

“Works are progressing well and the High Street is expected to re-open in early July. There will be no more road closures for another year.

“We have phased the works in order to minimise disruption as much as possible and don’t envisage being outside an individual property for more than four or five days.”

Businesses and shoppers fear for the future

Tricia Beaton, who owns ‘Tricia’s Takeaway in Bank Street said: “It is total chaos and it’s definitely affecting trade. It is only going to get worse when they dig up the paths rightin front of our doorways. How will people get into the shops when there’s big holes in the ground outside?“

Brian Niven (below), manager of Irvine Fish Mongers on High Street said: “We are down about 30 per cent already and if they keep roads closed and the buses diverted I can see a lot more shops closing.”

Mary Tucker is a disabled shopper who says her bus now only stops at the bingo hall in Townhead or at the Turf Corner and she can’t walk the distance to get to the shops she wants to.

She said: “There’s been no consideration at all for disabled people. I can’t walk that kind of distance so I just don’t bother. There are a lot of people like me.”

Mark Pellegrini has owned Mamma’s fish and chip shop for 27 years, but says he fears for his future because takings have been dwindling. He said: “The parking is a real issue. 

“No one can park here as all the spaces are taken up with people using the Portal so it has put people off. Now this regeneration has meant road closures, even less parking spaces and the upheaval of it all means less people are coming into the town. I honestly don’t know if my business will be able to survive it. We need the council to help us."