PUBLICAN Dennis Birch says the 47 day closure of the A1101 near his Welney pub – which will reopen tonight- will have cost him £60,000 in lost takings.

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He has laid off some of his 20 staff off since the Suspension Bridge was shut because of flooding and watched helplessly as two thirds of his trade disappeared.

Mr Birch, landlord of the Elgood’s owned pub, believes the road should be re-opened earlier.

He said: “The road is quite passable at the moment so there’s no reason why it can’t be opened.

“I have driven through deeper puddles on the M25.”

He said: “I phoned the Highways Agency and they said it’s the responsibility of the Environmental Agency but when I called them they said it’s up to the Highways Agency to open the road.”

Mr Birch said villagers have a 40 mile round trip because of the closure “so you can imagine the extra fuel costs.

“Lorries have been doing u-turns in the car park, which has destroyed the tarmac, but no one cares.”

He said a steak night which normally attracts 50 people drew just 13 clients and Sunday sittings, which usually attract more than 100 people, have struggled to reach 50 customers,

Giles Landscapes, another Welney business, has also been affected by the road closure.

The landscape garden designers, who have received numerous RHS Chelsea Flower Show awards, have had to cope with increased fuel costs for its 11 vehicles,

Owner Roger Giles, 74, estimates they have had to pay £500 a day extra for petrol since the road was closed.

He said: “One of our vehicles set off for a job in Cambridge at 6.30am and did not get there until 9am.

“Our 30 staff have stumped up more for petrol and their commute to work is taking up to 45 minutes longer.

“One of the girls, Gabi, lives in Burwell and cycles to work. She had to carry her bike over her shoulders through the water and change into dry clothes when she got to the office.

“This is a beautiful place but I have to admit all this bad weather is starting to wear a bit thin.”

Mr Birch has known the road closed for longer. The A1101 through The Washes closed in October 2006 and did not re-open until March 2007. Then his turn over fell over £100,000.

UPDATE: The Environment Agency has lifted the flood alert and Norfolk County Council will re-open the A1101 Wash Road tonight.

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