Antiques dealers in the heart of central London who are suffering from being caught up in one of Europe’s largest construction projects are calling for some respite from the ongoing disruption.
l route linking the west and east of the capital, and traders say footfall is down by 50-60% since the extensive building programme began in 2010.
The closure to traffic of most of Davies Street, which is the main road access for the Grays triangular site off Bond Street, keeps on being renewed year after year and it has just been extended to September 2013, with traders left in the dark about when it will reopen.
They are urging Westminster council to improve their support, and there has been some encouraging progress in that area, such as individual dealers now being invited to quarterly meetings held to discuss issues in the area. Dealer Robin Haydock said traders were "very pleased" about the more individual approach to consultation.
Dealers say rubbish on pavements, the "complete eyesore" look to the Crossrail facilities, mud and dirt in the area and the lack of car access for customers to be dropped off are among the many problems.
Also, a grout shaft in front of Grays main entrance "is no longer the small facility originally described" and despite traders believing that this would be used for a short time only, "the fenced area around the shaft has become a permanent camp and has grown into a large, fenced storage facility".
There is some good news though, with a Crossrail pledge that when work starts on the ticket hall on the western side of Davies Street extra directional signs to Grays will be provided, and dealers will be consulted on what form that should take. But traders are disappointed that advertising at the front entrance of the centre, where that grout shaft is sited, only comes up to waist height and a Perspex screen covering the rest merely shows the construction equipment behind.
Mr Haydock said that while directional signage for people who want to visit the site was improving, "where we feel we are all missing out is with new business - people who don't know that we exist because what they see when they look up and down Davies Street is a building site, not a high-class, quality row of shops and businesses you would be interested in, and that's for a long, long time".
Grays dealer Brian Murray-Smith, from The Gilded Lily, said: "At present our passing trade has shrivelled to nothing. From Oxford Street it is not visibly obvious that there are any shops open in Davies Street or, indeed, that the road is not completely closed.
"From within Mayfair, from the perspective of Claridge's, from Berkeley Square or from any of the surrounding luxurious streets it must appear that our sad little enclave is a dirty and noisy location that should be circumvented by anyone in clean clothes."
Mr Murray-Smith is calling for Davies Street to be reopened.
A spokesperson for Crossrail said: "Crossrail currently has approval for Davies Street to remain closed to general traffic until September next year but access for local businesses is available on request.
"Vehicle access continues to be available via neighbouring South Molton Lane. In early 2013, the main construction contract for Bond Street station will be awarded and there will be a further assessment concerning the need for a continued closure of Davies Street.
"New solid timber hoardings will replace the temporary fencing surrounding the site and a meeting has recently been held with Grays antiques to understand how they would like the new hoardings to look.
"Crossrail construction at Davies Street remains on schedule with Crossrail services commencing through central London in late 2018."