Businesses in a Moray village are planning crisis talks after it emerged roadworks that wrecked their summer season will now last until next year.
Traders in Aberlour claim their profits have plummeted since the controversial resurfacing project along High Street began, and they are now looking into ways of securing compensation.
And the plans were further fuelled last night, after it was confirmed the works – which were originally expected to take just 12 weeks – will now continue into 2016.
The controversial A95 scheme started in May, but suffered a huge setback last month when the team discovered an unrecorded water main running nearly the length of the street.
At the time, Bear Scotland assured locals that the work would be finished by the end of this month.
But yesterday it emerged that the complications are so severe that the project will run into next year.
However, traders will be granted a temporary reprieve in December, as the works will be put on hold to allow access to High Street during the festive period.
But with subsequent refurbishment efforts falling subject to winter weather, many traders fear there could be no end to the disruption in sight.
The Aberlour Filling Station, located at the south end of the High Street, claimed takings have been down 80% since the roadworks plunged the thoroughfare into disarray.
Staff at the station – which also sells wooden toys to help make ends meet – fear the business could go under as a result of the resurfacing project.
They believe their business to be the worst-hit in the village, and say the effect on the family firm has been “horrific”.
Other businesses have reported a similar downfall in trade, and figures will be presented to road bosses detailing the devastating effect the scheme has had.
Traders have scheduled a meeting for next week, where plans for a compensation appeal will be formed.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead recently met with Bear Scotland bosses to hammer out how such a request could move forward.
Mr Lochhead said: “Having been in dialogue with members of the community and business owners, I sympathise with their frustrations at the delays in completing the road improvements.
“I conveyed to Bear Scotland the concerns within Aberlour and expressed how important it was that they continue to work with businesses and residents.
“I know that some businesses owners are understandably worried about the impact this will have on their incomes and the knock on effect on staff, and I’ve sought clarification from Transport Scotland about whether there’s any precedent for compensation where there are unexpected delays such as these.”
Scottish Water yesterday confirmed the work would spiral into next year, as it forms plans to replace the outdated cast iron pipeline along the street.
The group said engineers would visit Aberlour this week to perform remedial works in advance of replacing the main next month.
On Friday, the water supply will be cut to roughly 50 High Street properties, from 10pm to 6am, while the antiquated pipe is examined.
A spokeswoman said: “We will be carrying out the replacement of a section of water main running under Aberlour High Street, and this has been programmed to tie in with work being carried out by Bear Scotland on the carriageway.
“The first stage of the mains replacement will take place from Monday, October 12, and will last four weeks.
“Work will stop during Christmas trading in December, with the second stage commencing in the new year.”
A Bear Scotland spokeswoman added: “Liaison has been ongoing with Scottish Water over its plans to replace an old cast iron water main beneath the High Street.
“Their proposed programme sees work extending into December, but discussions are being held to re-arrange these to minimise the effect to local businesses in the lead up to the festive period.
“However, the majority of road improvements are programmed to be completed along the High Street by late November.”