DISRUPTION on a major route into the town centre will stay put for significantly longer than first thought after workmen damaged a historic watercourse while carrying out repairs, the Chronicle can reveal.

Roadworks on Summer Lane were planned to last a few days, which has stretched into weeks of headaches for motorists and nearby businesses.

Eyebrows were raised as the work by Yorkshire Water to repair a water main ground to a halt earlier this month.

And the delay is confirmed to be due to accidental damage to a culverted section of Sough Dyke, a centuries-old watercourse which runs under parts of the town centre.

It means the involvement of the Environment Agency, and reportedly a months-long wait for a specialist contractor to be approved before work can start.

That isn’t what John Haigh, who runs Wharncliffe Garage with wife Jill, wants to hear.

The family firm, which had a refurbishment in November, stands to lose thousands of pounds in income a day - as customers choose to, or believe they must, avoid the shop and petrol station.

“We’ve had one week of getting back to normal, after lockdown, and we’ve taken a step back again,” said John.

“There’s nothing we can really do about it apart from hoping it will be sorted as soon as possible.

“We’ve been told it’s not going to be a quick fix - which isn’t what you want to hear. We’re losing considerable sums of money.”

John has been advised to submit a compensation claim, but said he hoped more could be done in the meantime.

“It’s not just losing money, it’s wondering whether we’ll get the customers back. People can drive down from the Pogmoor Road side - initially signs said the road was closed, but I asked and highways have since put signs up saying the businesses aren’t affected.

“I don’t know if that’s had any impact.

“It is a long way around to come down and then go back up that way.

“It’s putting more traffic on Pogmoor Road, which is a busy road at the best of times.

“Who knows what’s going to happen to the business.”

Yorkshire Water, which contracted Morrison Utility Services to carry out the initial work, is liable to put up the cost - but Barnsley Council must source the contractor.

Yorkshire Water is also responsible for sewer diversion work at Kendray Street, to ensure Sough Dyke doesn’t cause flooding at the town centre’s multi-million pound Glass Works regeneration scheme.

Raymond Newton, owner and chairman of BOS Office Supplies on Summer Lane - which has previously seen its cellar flooded by the dyke - called the delays ‘frustrating’ after months of operating online.

“We’ve certainly seen less people coming in - maybe they’re thinking they can’t get through and aren’t venturing far enough,” said Raymond.

“We all put up with minor disturbances, but it’s not until now we’ve considered what implications this could have for us on a long-term basis. Everything niggles away.”

The Chronicle understands hospital staff are wary of increased response times for ambulances sent into, or through, the town centre.

Coun Chris Lamb, cabinet spokesperson for environment and transportation, confirmed the local authority was liaising with the Environment Agency to ‘expedite the repairs as swiftly as we can’.

“This watercourse is classified as a main river and is therefore under the administration of the Environment Agency,” he added. “As a result, the repair work now needs to be carried out by a specialist contractor and approved by the Environment Agency.

“Having now clarified the legal position, the cost liability clearly falls with Yorkshire Water however responsibility to carry out the work now falls to us to agree with the Environment Agency.”

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said the firm was working with the council, Environment Agency and contractor Morrison ‘to make sure that the culvert can be fixed and road restored as soon as possible’.