A BAKERY in Cirencester says it has been forced to close due to a rapid decrease in sales, which the owners said was partly down to the recently completed town centre regeneration scheme.

AJ Whiddett’s Cricklade Street bakery is to cease trading on Saturday, July 15.

A notice outside the shop, reads: ‘With deepest regret, after 35 years at 51 Cricklade Street, we are forced to close due to rapid decrease in sales, due in part to the regeneration of Cirencester’.

It goes on to assure customers that the bakery will continue to trade from its Dollar Street branch – adding: ‘we hope to serve you as long as demand requires’.

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Work to revamp the Market Place began in February 2016 and was due to finish by November, though it was not completed until February this year.

The £1.3m project aimed to re-shape the town centre to make more space for markets and community events, while improving traffic flow.

However, many traders voiced concerns from day one, claiming that the confusion caused by the works, as well as the road changes, were driving away customers.

Last July, owner Robert Whiddett said takings had dropped £100 a day since work began.

He said the branch’s takings had since dropped by £1,000 a week.

The closure will see at least two people made redundant.

He said the regeneration scheme had been a factor, adding: “Without a shadow of a doubt it has been. We’re about £50,000 down. The whole regeneration programme has caused chaos.

“We’ve got to hold the council to account. The only other Roman town that’s had worst done to it is Pompeii.

“I should have seen the writing on the wall and closed down last year but you live in hope.”

Robert also felt that the closure of Cricklade Street to motorists has affected businesses.

A member of staff who did not wish to be named, said: “It used to be an extremely busy street, so our rates were justified. Now, the rent doesn’t justify what kind of street it is.

“It used to be the busiest in town. What with Black Jack Street and everything in Market Place, that part of the town is now busier. In Cricklade Street, there’s nothing down there.

“There’s too many obstacles, the only answer was to shut in the end, what with takings going down.”

Robert and his staff are currently reshaping some of the services that the Dollar Street bakery offers in order to ensure its future.

These include potentially offering deliveries, as well as opening at 7am rather 8am and targeting wholesale customers and pubs, and offering catering for weddings and buffets.

In September 2016, the bakery was fined £2,500 after failing to comply with food hygiene regulations.

However, both branches of the bakery were visited by hygiene inspectors in April and May, respectively, and both received a food hygiene rating of five or ‘very good’.

Cirencester Town Council did not provide a comment.

Robert said he would like to thank his customers for 35 years of support.

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