Garage boss threatens to sue over A151 works

Jet garage boss Mahmoud Sukarno with staff members Ryhan Sumon and Debbie Murfitt.
Jet garage boss Mahmoud Sukarno with staff members Ryhan Sumon and Debbie Murfitt.

THE BOSS of a petrol station in Whaplode has threatened to sue county highways bosses over their handling of roadworks on the A151 – and said the plans are a waste of money and will have to be reversed within a year.

With the road set to shut for nine days from Saturday, Mahmoud Sukarno, manager of Jet, is considering taking legal action against Lincolnshire County Council.

He says he is completely in the dark about the closure – and unsure of the arrangements for letting traffic through, leaving him uncertain of the prospect of access for customers or petrol tankers.

He said: “I am speaking to my insurance company. If needs be I will go to the court so that something will be done.

“It is an absolute waste of money and will cause chaos.”

Highways bosses have ruled out paying compensation to businesses and say they did speak to Mr Sukarno before the work began, but he said that at that stage the road was not going to close – with highways originally hoping to complete the work via a convoy system.

From Saturday until March 20 the road will be closed from the A16/A151 roundabout through to the link road roundabout in Holbeach, with local access to be maintained and ‘gatemen’ at each junction.

The council says his tankers and customers will be allowed through but Mr Sukharno said he wants the council to explain to him how the access arrangements will work before he commits to ordering a 32,000-litre petrol tanker.

His fears follow a report in last week’s Spalding Guardian in which Lamb and Flag landlord Mick Allen said he feared the works will kill his business.

The A151 work includes three central refuges in Whaplode to make it safer for people to cross but Mr Sukharno believes that those are not needed and will have to be taken out because they will prove a danger for traffic on the busy route, which caters for 13,500 vehicles a day.

He said: “I have been here for 11 years now and I think it is an absolute waste of money. If you stand on this road for five hours you probably wouldn’t see five people crossing.

“I believe in a year’s time it will have to go. There won’t be enough room to go by – they haven’t taken this seriously.

“If they want to reduce speed then this is not going to work.”

A highways spokesman responded by saying that the refuges serve a double purpose.

They said: “In the first instance they are required as traffic calming features to self-police the new 30mph speed limit that will be in force through Whaplode upon completion of the scheme.

“They also provide a refuge for pedestrians assisting them in crossing the road safely.”

Mr Sukharno says his petrol station serves a number of fuel card holders who have to fill up at his garage – including bin lorries, ambulances and fire engines – and says the disruption will be even more marked with the Sainsbury’s station in Spalding already shut for works.

He gets through a 32,000- litre tankful every three days – although only makes 1p a litre profit on the fuel.

The scheme includes speed limit reductions from 40mph to 30mph through Whaplode and from 60mph to 50mph from Weston to Whaplode and from Whaplode to the link road roundabout at Holbeach.

There will also be reactive signs at each end of Whaplode and Moulton.

The work actually began on Monday and temporary traffic lights were installed on Tuesday. They will operate either side of the closure while the work goes on and the full job is expected to take about four weeks.

When the road closes on Saturday traffic will be advised to take an eight-mile diversion to the A16 roundabout at Sutterton and then the A17.

The diversion is expected to take an extra ten minutes in clear traffic.