TRADERS in Truro say they fear a planned £3 million sewer improvement programme could destroy their businesses.
They warned of catastrophic consequences after learning large-scale work in the area of Victoria Square, Kenwyn Street and Little Castle Street could go on for more than a year.
Road closures will affect 60 businesses directly, with the impact of traffic diversions felt more widely in the city.
Business-owners from the area are being urged to attend a meeting at 6pm on Monday at The One Eyed Cat in Kenwyn Street.
Sean McMahon, manager of the Cody menswear shop in Kenwyn Street, said: "It would be catastrophic for business.
"It's going to put anybody off coming down the street."
Paula Sanderson, from the Limelite fancy dress store on Little Castle Street, said: "It would wipe my business out. It's such a fragile economic situation and business is only just viable anyway."
Ben Tyler, from the Zest photography studio, said: "It's going to kill this side of town. A big part of my business is with children and ladies with prams and they're not going to be able to get through.
"I don't know if any business could carry a loss of trade over 60 weeks."
Neil Scott, Totally Truro Business Improvement District manager, said: "The impact of closing the roads to all vehicles for such a time, coupled with the severe disruption caused by the actual works, will potentially be catastrophic to businesses in the area in what is already a very difficult economic climate. We've just come through the second wettest year on record, but none of these streets was closed for flooding."
Marcus Turner, from Quintessential in Kenwyn Street, branded the proposals ridiculous. Other traders from The Salon, luxury furniture store Traquair and 108 Coffee questioned whether there would be a reduction in business rates as compensation.
A spokeswoman for South West Water said: "The sewerage network in parts of Truro is no longer able to cope with the demands placed on it. There are currently 23 properties at risk of internal sewer flooding and five at risk of external sewer flooding in the city centre."
The scheme was "possible but not definite" and the firm would work with the community to minimise any impact.
The historic centre of Truro will also be closed to traffic for the next ten weeks: see page 8.
West Briton Opinion: page 40.