STRUGGLING Evesham businesses may face closure if the town’s Abbey Bridge remains shut until March, as is now expected.

Mike Arens, who runs the garage behind Abbey Road petrol station, said his business was on the brink.

The blow of further delays comes just weeks after Mr Arens and fellow business owners on Abbey Road revealed people had lost their jobs since the bridge closed.

“We didn’t have a single customer yesterday,” said Mr Arens. “It’s getting pretty bad. We are living hand to mouth. If it goes to March we will definitly have to close.”

Chris Bird, of Auto Options and Phoenix Scooters, said he had to lay off a member of staff but hoped he wouldn’t have to close.

The news that the bridge, which was due to reopen in November, would likely remain closed until March was included in a letter sent to Hochtief by Councillor Paul Middlebrough, leader of Wychavon District Council.

He requested a director of the company, working to replace the 85-year-old bridge as part of a £12.6 million scheme, visit the town.

“The delay is causing a real hardship to shops and markets adversely affecting the vibrancy of this market town with the threat of business having to close and, once gone, the dynamics of the community will change for the worse,” he wrote.

People in the town are now asking why they haven’t been told more about why the project has been delayed Former councillor and Evesham resident Martin King asked why the people of the town aren’t being told more about the delays.

He said: “How can anyone plan for this? Why is the town not being told?

If this is what we have to face, tell the businesses.”

Councillor John Smith, Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “We have made it clear (to Hochtief) that enough is enough.”

We have a meeting in the next week to 10 days with the managing director of Hochtief.

“We will again be making the case very strongly that they give us dates when the bridge will be open. We can only tell people what our contractors are telling us. There will be serious discussions once the bridge is completed about the contract.

Our priority is to get the bridge open.”

Hochtief released a statement on Tuesday to “provide clarity” about the closure, saying that it held the county council responsible for some of the delays.

It said: “The original Worcestershire County Council concept design envisaged solutions which would have allowed the closure of Abbey Bridge for up to a period of 12 months.

“Hochtief was awarded the contract to rebuild...

based on an innovative technical solution which avoided full demolition of the bridge and offered significant time and cost savings to Worcestershire County Council.

“It is correct that there have been delays, part of which we hold Worcestershire County Council liable for, that have driven a critical part of construction into the winter period. This, unfortunately, has exacerbated the problem due to adverse climatic conditions.

“Nevertheless, the actual time the bridge will be closed will be considerably shorter than foreseen in the original construction concept – even with said delays.

“Hochtief have, and will, continue to work with Worcestershire County Council to complete the project in the most expedient manner.

“We expect the bridge to be a first-class structure and something the people of Evesham can be proud of when it is complete in spring 2014.”