SHOPS, pubs and restaurants have seen a dramatic loss of trade since the closure of the car park in Regent Circus.

The car park, which was adjacent to the site of the old Swindon College building, has been closed for more than a year and business owners said their turnover had significantly reduced.

They are calling on the council to ease parking or reduce business rates in the area to help them until a new £50m leisure complex is built.

Antoinette Kerrigan, landlady of Byron’s Bar, in Byron Street, said: “Business has been dire. My business is down by half.

“Since they’ve started work and put up the boards around the site I feel like a sheep. I’m penned in and no one can see the bars here.

“I’ve lost all my walk-in trade and we’ve had to stop doing food. We used to get a bit from workmen at the end of the day, but everyone just drives past because there is nothing. Even the little bit of road outside has double yellow lines and the wardens are on you in a flash.”

Antoinette has contacted the council but has received no help.

“I’ve tried asking for a reduction in business rates but was told it would take two years. It feels like nobody cares,” she said.

Work on the leisure complex is due to start soon, with the aim of being completed in April 2014, but businesses in Victoria Road fear they may not last until then.

Nikki Legg, the manager of The Giant Party Shop, said: “Since the car park has gone, trade has gone.

“We have customers asking where to park and I have to tell them there is nothing nearby. “The only spaces close are loading bays that can only be used for five minutes.”

On top of the car park closure, Nikki said her business was hit by the closure of Victoria Road.

“The road was closed in October which hit business really hard over Halloween and firework night,” she said.

“Trade was a tenth of what it is normally for that period.

“It seems like one thing after another and we don’t get any help. There are double yellow lines everywhere and our rates have not dropped.

“The length of time being taken to get started on the leisure complex is also raising concerns.

“I think that when the development is complete it’ll be really good, but that seems to keep getting put back,” she said.

A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The council was asked to close the car park last year by the developer so the demolition of the Swindon College could take place.

“We are not aware of any approaches to the council regarding changing some of the parking restrictions in the area, although we appreciate there has been some impact on local businesses as a result of the car park closure.

“However, the development with associated parking will greatly enhance the Regents Circus area and deliver a huge boost to local businesses when complete.

“Our options for delivering additional car parking spaces in the meantime are limited, but there is short-stay parking in Durham Street and Euclid Street and pay and display parking a few minutes’ walk away in a number of our multi storey car parks.”