A COUPLE running a long-established business have not paid themselves this year, blaming a dramatic drop in customer numbers on nearby roadworks.

Sales have plummeted by a third at Strickoe's Deli @ The Fruit & Flower Basket, Bishops Lydeard, since work started on a roundabout.

And sales were down by 50 per cent on Good Friday and Easter Monday, traditionally busy periods.

There was further bad news for Phil and Ann Strickland, who own the firm on Broadgauge Business Park, when it emerged the project completion date has been put back a month to mid-May.

The roundabout is being built on the A358 by SWH Civils for Taylor Wimpey as part of a legal agreement linked to a nearby homes development, with a series of traffic lights in place during construction.

"It's caused a big headache and has been really hard going since January," said Mr Strickland.

"We've been in Bishops Lydeard as a deli for 24 years and every year has always grown.

"So far this year has been absolutely devastating because of the roadworks.

"We do lots of rolls, pasties and pies and people drop in for their lunch, but if you've only got a 30-minute break and it takes ten minutes to get in and a further ten to get out, it doesn't leave much time.

"People simply don't want to queue up to get here."

As well as not taking any cash out of the business for their own wages this year, Mr and Mrs Strickland have kept on their eight staff.

"They've always been loyal and if we laid them off, what would we do once things pick up?" said Mr Strickland, aged 62.

"We've had to use of some of our retirement money we'd put back to help us through - it could quite possibly mean we'll have to work longer.

"We're passionate about what we do and it's heartbreaking to think something like this could have destroyed the business in a few months if we hadn't put a bit back.

"Hopefully it will be an easier junction to cross when the roundabout is done, but it's unfortunate the finish date has been put back."

A Somerset County Council spokesman said: "We appreciate there has been some disruption during construction, but the new roundabout will make the busy A358 safer and will improve access to the village and local businesses.

"Final surfacing is scheduled to be laid during the week commencing May 15.

"For the safety of both the travelling public and the workforce it will be necessary for the temporary traffic signals to remain in place while the roundabout is completed.

"The contractor SWH Civils will continue to actively manage traffic in order to keep delays to a minimum.”