MENAI Bridge businesses are calling for urgent support following the sudden closure of the town’s suspension bridge which is having a “devastating” impact on some traders.
Sarah Morgan of the Butterfly Boutique says one day last week she took £0.00 for the first time ever since she opened her business in 2014.
It comes after the Menai Suspension Bridge was unexpectedly closed amid urgent safety repairs to its iron hangers on October 21.
People are avoiding the town amid the ensuing traffic chaos and long tailbacks at peak times on the only remaining route between Anglesey and the mainland the Britannia Bridge.
Sarah said: “The impact this is having on some traders is devastating.
“We lost so much during Covid, then we had the fair – when the car parks were unavailable and now this. We couldn’t plan for this.
“No one knows how long this is going on for, we desperately need information from the powers that be.
“It is extremely worrying as a business to not know what is happening. ”
Oriel Glyn Davies Gallery owner – professional landscape photographer Glyn Davies, said: “I have been in this shop for 20 years , and for me this is a disaster worse than any major recession, worse than the pandemic, at least then we had help and support.
“I get 75 percent of my clients from Cheshire, some from Liverpool and Manchester, but I am sitting here with an empty gallery. People are avoiding the area.
“I can’t go on like this for months on end, we need help, practical support and information, not rumours.
“Looking down the street there is no one walking around. I have been in business for 40 years, this has been the worst I have seen, it is so quiet.
“We have no voice here in Menai Bridge, I am sure it is affecting other Anglesey towns and villages.
“There are things the council, the government, the highways could do to help us, perhaps a few week’s respite from business rates or grants or something but changing the signs to a positive message to say the shops in Menai Bridge are open would help.
“People are posting horror stories, some are exaggerating saying takes hours to get across the bridge, they are putting the nail in the coffin for Menai Bridge.
“There are some delays, mainly at peak times, but if plan your journey in the off peak times, the worst I have experience has been maybe a 15 – 20 minute delay.
“I appreciate it’s impossible for teachers, nurses and students, they are snookered having to travel at peak times, it can also be bad if you hit the Dublin ferry traffic, but if other people adapted their journey times and were more practical it would be fine.”
Pip’s Pet Supplies store employee Wendy Goodwin said she had noticed how “eerily quiet” it had been.
“Normally, it is hard to find a parking place in the morning but there is lots of room now. It is like a ghost town.”
Director Charlotte and husband Gary Roberts, of the family business Anglesey Insurance Services said: “It has affected our older clients, who like to come in and talk about their insurance, but they are afraid to come into town, in case they get stuck in the traffic.
“It has really been devastating for some businesses.
“Luckily we can do a lot of our work by phone and computer, but we too have seen a fall in footfall, people are not passing by and just popping in.”
Hawthorn Yard vintage and gardening goods proprietor Sue Vincent said we need help to get the message out, with signs saying it is “BUSINESS AS USUAL” in Menai Bridge.
“We need some help from the council, maybe get some lights strung up across the streets and brighten the town up, maybe have a few late night shopping events.
“We need information so that we can plan our businesses, we need to put out a positive message that we are still here.
“We have not been bombed – but this is our livelihoods, and we do need some support and information.
Jane Walsh of the Plus 39 cafe and restaurant, was having a chat with Sue at the yard.
“It has been so quiet, I am only here now chatting with Sue because we finished early due to fewer customers today.
“At the worst peak times, we see the traffic backing up into the town, all the way from the Britannia.”
Ed Billins who has run a family business & Caws, a cheese mongers, has adapted his business to recent conditions.
” It has been quieter but our trade has been fairly OK, although we have only been here a year so we have nothing to compare it to.
“We are a shop that gets local custom, residents nearby walk to us.
“We have adapted and prepared, we have started organising collection box drop off points so people can collect their Christmas cheese hampers.”
A spokesperson for Evans hardware store, in business since the 1930s, said although it was somewhat quieter on the street, falling footfall it hadn’t greatly affected their trade, but had impacted deliveries.
Lisa Mayes of Dylan’s baked good and general store said she had noticed less people about, footfalls were down. She wished to let customers know that the shop was still open seven days a week.
Politicians pitch in
Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum have pitched in to help.
On Tuesday (November 1) the island’s Conservative MP Virginia Crobie raised the bridge closure in a Parliamentary debate.
The Plaid Cymru Senedd Member Rhun ap Iorwerth also pledged to ask the Welsh Government for “financial assistance and to start a business open as usual” campaign.
During the Commons adjournment debate Mrs Crosbie said the crossing was “critically important” to her Ynys Môn constituents and businesses on Anglesey.
It was also an “important link” for local commuters, students and residents, those visiting Anglesey for shopping, holidays or work, and freight transport.
Both bridges she said formed a “vital link” in the transport infrastructure of the United Kingdom.
What had been shocking was the closure of “such an important bridge without warning, contingency plans or thought for the local and national impact.”
She said the Parliamentary under secretary James Davies would be directly writing to the First Minister to “demand some answers.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “Many businesses have been in touch with me following the bridge closure with concerns about the slump in footfall and takings.
“I’ve therefore suggested an open for “business as usual campaign” for those who have been hit hard.
“I have contacted Anglesey County Council to ask them to look into this, the Welsh Government should consider providing financial assistance.”