BUSINESSES in Farnworth town centre say they are on the brink of going bust after more than a year of roadworks has sent shoppers elsewhere.

Farnworth has been subject to road closures since last August when Moses Gate railway bridge was badly damaged and repairs by Network Rail were severely delayed.

This stopped traffic going to and from Bolton town centre and was followed by the council’s improvements to King Street, Market Street and Brackley Street, which is currently being repaved.

Now, businessowners in the town’s main thoroughfare say their trade has fallen by up to 70 per cent in the last year.

Shafi Ahmed, manager of newsagent Super News, said: “We are sitting here but no one’s coming.”

He said that he now owes £12,000 in business rates and almost £7,000 to the landlord despite a reduction in rent.

Mr Patel, a friend of the Khan family, helped Super News apply for a business rate discount while it suffers from a slump in trade.

He said: “Due to inconvenience, people have stopped coming into Farnworth and trade is at the lowest it’s ever been and there is no sign of any kind of changes. If this continues there’ll be a lot of empty units in Farnworth town centre.”

Applications for a reduction in their rateable value were refused by the Valuations Office on the grounds of insufficient evidence, but Mr Patel said the businesses provided everything they could.

Jahingir Khan who runs phone shop AJ Mobile in the same unit as Super News said that businesses are getting frustrated. He said: “The work right now for the last four weeks is right in front of our shop and for the last four weeks we’re not even pulling our wages out.”

“The way the business is going right now, we’re going to be bust. And if we go bust obviously it’s due to the work that is carried out by the council.”

Neighbouring the newsagent, handbag and shoe shop Trendz has been shut since Monday as businessowner Mohammed Asif said he will not reopen it until next week. He said: “Trade has totally gone. Farnworth is already a very small town. No one seems to be interested in looking after Farnworth. All we need is some relief for the shopkeepers.”

Several businesses have already closed in recent years including a butcher, clothes shop and a B&M.

David Dewhurst, who has run Freeze Factory in Brackley Street for 20 years, said that retailers have been suffering generally but several businesses in Farnworth have closed because of the disruption.

Mr Dewhurst said: “This doesn’t help the overall trend. It’s affected business a lot. Customers can’t get here.”

Bolton Council defended the work on Brackley Street which includes the addition of new trees and benches costing a total of £450,000.

A council spokesman said: “The work will improve the retail environment making the area more appealing for everyone. This will help existing retailers and could also attract new businesses, which we have seen with Newport Street. We appreciate that businesses and shoppers may be inconvenienced while the improvements are underway and we are undertaking the work as quickly as possible.”

The council said that there has been positive feedback from the community about the changes which are set to be complete in the autumn, subject to weather.

Farnworth has been named as one of the towns Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham wants to see regenerated. Last week Bolton Council announced a firm had been appointed to create a new masterplan for Farnworth town centre. Building Design Partnership will speak to councillors, stakeholders and residents to replace a previous plan.

Deputy Leader of Bolton Council, and chair of the Farnworth Town Centre Steering Group, Cllr Ebrahim Adia, said: “Farnworth is an absolute priority for us. The aim of the new masterplan will be to unlock further development and identify potential for future investment.”