The Roads Minister has apologised to business owners, residents and commuters for delay in reopening the Desertmartin to Tobermore road.
But Danny Kennedy ruled out having a face-to-face meeting with hard pressed business owners at Desertmartin Road in Tobermore, who have seen their takings drop dramatically during the closure, which has lasted almost two months.
My takings have fallen 70 per cent since this work started and nobody in authority cares
With the road expected to open again tomorrow (Sunday) after a £1m realignment at Killytoney, the DUP’s Ian McCrea was demanding a site meeting with the minister to address concerns of traders.
However, in a letter to the Mid Ulster Assembly member, Mr Kennedy rejected any possibility of compensation payments, saying there is “no statutory provision” for the payment to businesses for loss of profit.
“I see no useful purpose in having a site meeting,” he said.
The minister continued: “While it is regrettable that the temporary closure of the road is causing disruption to local residents and businesses, my officials have advised the closure is necessary to facilitate the safe completion of the online portion of the carriageway realignment work.”
Chip shop owner Derek McClenaghan, whose business relies on passing trade from the hundreds of vehicles using the road - the main route to the North West - accused Mr Kennedy of “simply dismissing the legitimate concerns” of shop owners.
“My takings have fallen 70 per cent since this work started and nobody in authority cares,” he told the Mail.
“Yet I have my rates and overheads to continue paying.
He added: “He could at least have come and spoken to us face to face.”
Mr McClenaghan, who has had to dip into his savings to keep his business turning over, said the government urgently needed to look at provision for businesses suffering financial hardship during road closures.
He claimed if a major road had been closed for two months in Belfast there would be “a big outcry”.
“I don’t care about the compensation,” he said. “What I don’t like is the Minister’s attitude of dismissing business owners concerns as if they meant nothing.