BARNSTAPLE traders are calling for action over unsightly scaffolding that they say is bad for business. The Gazette reported in January how scaffolding put up around an unsafe building in Joy Street had had a detrimental effect of Christmas trade. Nine mo

BARNSTAPLE traders are calling for action over unsightly scaffolding that they say is bad for business.

The Gazette reported in January how scaffolding put up around an unsafe building in Joy Street had had a detrimental effect of Christmas trade.

Nine months later, the same traders have drawn up petition to get the scaffolding removed once and for all and are asking shoppers to show their support.

Wesley Mckellar, manager of travel shop Vacation World, said business had dropped around 40 per cent since the scaffold went up in November last year.

"We've had to make some tough decisions on staffing and have lost two members of staff that we have been unable to replace," he told the Gazette. "We have had to adjust all our budgets and spending for the future year just because of it.

"The boards around the scaffold actually encroach over our shop window and reps from visiting tour operators are often unable to find us.

"Work started at the back of the building in February and then it just stopped and we haven't seen anyone on the site since the start of the summer.

"February is generally our busiest time of the year and it killed it for us this year."

In a further twist, Devon County Council has threatened traders with on the spot £1,000 fines if they put A-boards on the pavement to advertise their businesses.

"We're fighting a losing battle," said Jerry Fry, owner of the Artstore.

"The scaffolding protrudes about two feet into the road and blocks the pavement, yet as soon as we put an A-board out, the council is on to us the same day threatening to fine us for blocking the pavement.

"It just doesn't make sense. Times are tough enough and it affects my business at peak times during the year. We usually get lots of holiday-makers, but that just didn't happen this year.

"We've been told they're not going to do anything about it until the economic conditions improve but I can't shut my door - I've got rent and rates to pay."

Trevor Henry, owner of coffee shop Flava, said the scaffolding caused chaos with the morning delivery vans: "It's a nightmare," he said. "If it was in the High Street it wouldn't be happening.

"When you look up from the High Street you get the impression that Joy Street is closed off - it's had an incredibly detrimental effect on the footfall at my business."

Jackie Gover, of Gover's, said: "It looks like Beirut up here. It's been up a year now and we've been told it'll be up for at least another two - if we're lucky."

Building surveyors acting on behalf of owners confirmed that scaffolding was put up because the building was unsafe and extensive work would be required to bring the building to a reasonable state of repair.

They said that repair work or reconstruction in the near future was unlikely due the current economic climate.

North Devon Council planners said that leaving the site vacant was unacceptable and that any scheme to demolish the building would only be approved if a replacement scheme is designed and a contractor appointed.