Traders in Horsham town centre are breathing a sigh of relief today (Friday April 5) as the Carfax re-opens.
The £80,000 facelift was finished five days earlier than planned, say West Sussex County Council (WSCC).
Shops have suffered a serious blow in trade after traffic - including buses - was banned from the Carfax as improvements to pedestrian ramps took place.
Access was cut off since mid February.
“We are relieved, it’s like a breath of fresh air through the town,” said Eileen Brumby, branch manager of Horsham’s Age UK in the Carfax.
The store was forced to draft in around 40 donations bags from other branches last week.
“Buses and transport are our blood and our donations rely on people walking through the door. We’re absolutely delighted this morning.”
Horsham town centre was the scene of traffic comedy as the improvement works took place.
But for many businesses, the work has been no laughing matter.
The branch manager said it was ‘killing us’ and claimed donations had dropped by more than half because footfall dropped dramatically.
She branded the WSCC ischeme ‘a mess’, and explained that the store was doing their ‘very best’ to serve the public which ‘can’t come out because the town is cut in half’.
“I really don’t know how the county council can do this to a town, our hands are tied, we can’t do anything and we’re all miserable and despondent,” added the manager last week.
Howard Bayliss, owner of the Candy Box, said that after a noticeable hike over Easter weekend when the Carfax was re-opened for Piazza Italia, his weekly takings were back down by around ten to 20 per cent.
The convenience store, like the majority of businesses in Horsham town centre, relies on the many customers which are brought in on the buses.
“Some of our older customers have found it difficult getting into the branch because of the distance they’re having to walk to get to the bus stop,” explained Jo Thomas, branch manager at Waitrose in Piries Place.
Drivers had also been caught up in the chaos, with many thrown into a torrent of confusion because of the Carfax closure.
Last week a number of large vehicles and coaches, including a Poundland lorry, became stuck in the Causeway after being confronted with a ‘closed’ sign at the top of Blackhorse Way.
The driver spent ten minutes trying to squeeze his way out of the road.
The hulking vehicle mounted pavements, snapped branches and tore up grass verges in a bid to get free at around 4pm on Thursday (April 4).
People stood and watched as the cool-headed driver attempted a 50-point turn which soon set him on his way.
On Friday (April 5) a baffled motorist drove down the footpath above Sainsbury’s car park next to Esquires coffee shop in The Forum.
Nina Stevens was on her lunch break when she stumbled across the potentially dangerous episode.
“I came out of TK Maxx and saw this car on the footpath,” said the 23-year-old.
“Luckily it stopped before it went over the wooden bridge which could have collapsed.”
Horsham District Council (HDC) say the town centre works are ‘essential’.
Darren Faulkner, Principal Engineer for West Sussex County Council, said: “We are delighted to have been able to finish these improvements quicker than anticipated.
“We want town centre traders to know everything is now business as usual.
“We’d like to take the opportunity to thank them all for their patience and understanding while this work was being done.”