Trouble in the pipeline for Sunderland shops

Martin O'Neill outside his Sweet Home Alabama shop on where he says trade is being affected by roadworks, less than a year after the pavements were dug up.
Martin O'Neill outside his Sweet Home Alabama shop on where he says trade is being affected by roadworks, less than a year after the pavements were dug up.
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A FED-UP sweet shop owner says ongoing gas works are bad for business.

Martin O’Neill, of Sweet Home Alabama in Sunderland city centre, first hit out when contractors for the Sunniside Partnership were slow to replace pavements outside his store last year.

So he was horrified to see work starting again at the junction between High Street West and Fawcett Street, this time as part of a programme to modernise gas pipes.

Martin, who has lived in Sunderland for six years, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I saw them digging again.

“The jack hammers are going all day. No-one in their right mind will want to walk past all that stuff.

“It’s hard to put a figure on what I’m losing, but it is very unpleasant having to put up with this.

“It seems crazy that half the town was dug up last year. It was only eight or nine months ago that the paving was being re-surfaced.”

The pavement outside Sweet Home Alabama was ripped up in January last year as part of ongoing regeneration of the area.

But work ground to a halt while new paving stones were shipped 5,000 miles from China to Sunderland.

Martin was amazed when constructors working for Lumsden and Carroll told him what was causing the delay.

“How many quarries do we have in Britain? I’ve no idea when it is going to be finished,” he said at the time.

A spokesman for Northern Gas Networks, which distributes gas across the north, revealed the current work could be just the start of a longer project.

He said: “It is an investigation team that we have down there.

“Every year we replace older metal gas pipes for new plastic ones.

“In this particular case, it is a large diameter gas main, so we are having to send investigating teams to look at to see which bits need replacing.

“It will take round about two weeks and we send cameras down.

“What will happen after that, is that we have meetings with the council and agree a time scale.

“Then we send customer liaison teams into the town and find out how it might affect businesses and how we can combat that.

“The metal pipes age after a while. The plastic pipes are more durable and can last 80 to 90 years, so they are the most safe and reliable form of pipe. Some metal pipes come from the Victorian age.

“We have a system of looking at all our gas mains and working out where all the ones to be replaced are.”

He added that Northern Gas Networks invests £63million a year into the northern gas network.