FEARS have been voiced for the future of town centre businesses in Galashiels.

It follows a claim that works designed to encourage shoppers back in to the town centre could actually force them to bypass local businesses at what should be their busiest time of year.

Scottish Borders Council has confirmed Market Street in Galashiels - one of the main routes into the main thoroughfare - will close for resurfacing during the latest phase of town centre improvements which are expected to last 12 weeks.

And local shopkeepers fear that the disruption, which is set to begin on Monday, October 22, could hit their Christmas trade.

One shopkeeper, who did not want to be named, said: "There is a real danger that some businesses, which are already struggling with the recession, may decide to close if they don't get enough custom over the Christmas period to see them into the New Year."

The work, which is being carried out by Scottish Borders Council's inhouse team SBc Contracts, will include improvements to footways, the introduction of extra on-street parking opposite Green Street, and the redesign of the Paton Street and Albert Place junctions with Market Street, as well as the resurfacing of the road.

However, council chiefs this week insisted they would work with local businesses to minimise any disruption.

Councillor Gordon Edgar, SBC's Executive Member for Roads and Infrastructure said: "These works reinforce the council's commitment to investing in the town and the local economy.

"The extra on-street parking will provide more opportunities for people to come and shop in the town centre, and the extended parking times that are being brought in next year will not only be an advantage to visitors to the centre, but also to the local businesses themselves."

Town information boards are also being installed at all of the main arrival points in the town to attract visitors to the centre. Once these improvements are delivered it will complete the link from the new developments into the town centre.

A spokesperson for the local authority said: "This is expected to take up to 12 weeks to complete so will coincide with the Christmas period. The contractor SBc Contracts will maintain access to businesses at all times to minimise any disruption.

"This follows on from the refurbishment of Market Square and the civic space at the northern end of Channel Street. Market Street will have to close for the resurfacing work but this is likely to take place on evenings and/or weekends, again to minimise any potential disruption."