SHOPKEEPERS in Austin Friars, Newport, have hit out at the council for “a lack of help” following the start of demolition work to make way for the recently approved Friars Walk.

Businesses in the area such as Timpson, Elbow Room and Betty’s Cafe have seen their footfall and profits dip since demolition work began.

And they’re unhappy at the time it took the council to put signs up directing people to the area – as well as the location and size once they were put up on Wednesday evening.

Sue Williams, 59, from Usk, owns Elbow Room, a hair salon that has been on the street for 34 years.

Her custom has dipped by roughly 20 per cent in the past month alone, and she expects it to get a lot worse as the work continues.

“Not only has it taken so long to put up the signs but they are a complete waste of time,” said Mrs Williams. “It’s not going to bring any business here whatsoever.

“They’re small, obscure and in a location where you’d need to be at the shops to see it anyway.

“We wanted a sign on Commercial Street which would’ve brought business down here but once again they’ve not listened to us.

“All we want is some help and for the council to meet us to discuss a way forward but once again they don’t want to know about smaller businesses.”

Karen Hanratty, manager of Betty’s cafe, also predicts a bleak future if nothing is done. The cafe now struggles to attract 20 customers a day in a lunchtime rush, whereas it used to be more than 50.

“The only custom we get now is regulars,” said Mrs Hanratty. “We have had staff putting out our own small signs on Commercial Street but we need something permanent as these signs are easily blocked.

“If it continues like this with little support from the council then we won’t be here by the time Friars Walk is completed.”

Businesses were told that the signs would be put up shortly after work started in October but that promise wasn’t delivered until Wednesday evening.

A spokesman for Newport City Council said: “Signs have now been put up around the Friars Walk development area. We would like to apologise for the delay.

“Friars Street, Austin Friars, Corn Street and Llanarth Street – as well as those parts of John Frost Square and Upper Dock Street which are not part of the redevelopment area are still accessible from Commercial Street.”