Despite their exposure and relative fragility, traders rarely seem to benefit from any special attention from site owners and operators. This is the finding of the study undertaken by hub.bussels.
A period of work within a commercial district can spark a chain reaction, leading to reduced footfall or even the permanent closure of a business or businesses. Yet, even in the best case scenario, the traders are treated as ordinary users, in terms of communication, planning and management of the urban work.
However, the study of certain practices both in Belgium and abroad proves that if they are considered and included in plans from an early enough stage, the traders can become excellent representatives. Indeed, they can be a project’s best ambassadors among all the other users of the district.
4 out of 10 traders were not notified of work being carried out in their district
This is one of the most striking findings from our study. Of the 50 traders surveyed by hub.brussels, 40% reported that they hadn’t received any communication from the public authorities regarding work being carried out in their district. Yet, only an informed trader is able to forewarn their customers.
“We haven’t been kept informed. I’ve just seen the No Parking signs. No communication beforehand”
Jean-Robert, a service provider, established for more than 10 years
The same story can be heard from customers: of the 160 customers interviewed who have experienced building work in their district, only 5% were forewarned by way of notification from the public authorities. In parallel, 18% were notified directly or verbally by their tradespeople, i.e. three times more.
Financial help, communication and signage: three major needs
During the summer of 2015, Place Vanderkindere (Uccle) and its adjacent streets were affected by large-scale building work, undertaken by the STIB and Bruxelles-Mobilité. Before drawing up a plan of action to support the traders throughout the work, hub.brussels decided to gauge their opinion about their needs during the building work.
The three responses most frequently cited concerned compensation for the businesses (56.3%), communication with the site coordinators (40.4%) and signage for access to the district (36.2%)
Awareness among public authorities: cornerstone for building works
Awareness is gradually growing among the public authorities. In Brussels, they are developing solutions to simplify and quantify the work on public highways. The Osiris tool and the hyper-coordination developed by Bruxelles-Mobilité finally enable all ongoing or future work to be clearly visualised and any overlap to be limited in restricted areas.
The latest introduction of compensation methods also seems more adapted to the reality faced by the traders and is therefore indicative of improvements.
So that building works are no longer seen solely as an obstacle, the key lies most certainly in the ability of all the parties concerned – public authorities and users at the forefront – to meet and develop, together, a vision as well as a meaningful project.
To this effect, hub.brussels has listed a series of 21 tips to help traders and public authorities to manage building work in such a way as to limit any negative impact.