A BUSINESS in Wokingham may have only weeks left before it is forced to close after delays in road repairs caused a drastic loss in customers.

Kimel Café, located on Eversdons Lane, was among the firms badly hit when a truck fell into a sink hole which had opened up nearby.

The clear-up operation closed the road and ongoing repair work means, months on, customers face a long detour to reach the café.

Nic Lander, the owner and founder of the Kimel Trust charity, says he has lost thousands of pounds worth of business and has pleaded with customers to 'use us or lose us.'

Mr Lander said: “It all started in September when it took three weeks to pull out the truck which got stuck in the sink hole and they’ve been repairing ever since.

“We were told that it would be finished at the beginning of December but then we received news that, due to delays, the works are still ongoing in January 2023.

“Because there is now a cordon surrounding the road while it is repaired, customers have to take a three-mile detour, and some are just choosing to go into town instead.”

The not-for-profit businesses opened at the beginning of 2022 offering supportive workplace training for neurodiverse young people.

This programme is a lifeline supporting 17 young people who are unable to find employment elsewhere and suffer from disorders such as autism, down syndrome, and ADHD.

He added: “I just ask people to keep coming in and support our project. From September we have lost £8,500 due to the loss of business and because I have refused to let anyone go.

“This place is essential especially when only 16 per cent of neurodivergent people normally find work. It’s not their fault that this is happening so I just couldn’t do it.”

According to Nic, the only way the café will be able to stay open is if Thames Water accepts the claim for compensation to make up for subsequent losses across the last three months.

Communications have been ongoing between businesses since November when Wokingham leader, Cllr Clive Jones agreed to help businesses during that process.

Mr Lander says if the cafe was forced to close, it would have a vast impact on his staff's mental health causing many other secondary issues and further unemployment.

The charity teaches staff everything from life skills to accounting.

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to businesses and local people who have been affected by the road closure and diversion on Evendons Lane, while we continue to repair a collapsed sewer pipe.

"In October and November last year we held drop-in sessions to address any concerns they might have regarding the ongoing work and we connected local businesses with our claims team.

"This dedicated team is able to address any concerns the owners may have regarding loss of income.

Although Thames Water have stated that teams are on the ground seven days a week to make necessary repairs, shop owners have said that at times the site lies empty for days on end.

The utility company added: "In November we advised there may be additional work in January 2023 given the complexities around this job and our work at the site is ongoing as we continue to fix the sewer and ensure the area is safe for road users and residents. 

"We will continue to engage with local people updating them on the work.”