TWO major roadwork schemes start in Purbeck's two main towns on Monday, heralding weeks of potential disruption for residents, businesses and visitors.

Gas distribution company SGN will commence upgrade works on the gas network in Wareham town centre on Monday (January 6), a project timetabled for 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, five months of roadworks are set for Swanage town centre, which start on the same day.

In Swanage local traders have voiced opposition to the scheme, which is being carried out by Dorset Council in a bid to improve safety on Institute Road.

However, part of the plans – to relocate the loading bays on Institute Road – have come under particular criticism with local traders.

Ian Vatcher, who works at one of those businesses affected, said the scheme "will see the demise of the shops in Institute Road as we won't be able to get deliveries or donations."

Swanage Town Council has also received representations from concerned business owners in the area, who fear the plans could affect trade.

The Wareham works are taking place so the existing metal gas main can be replaced with a new plastic pipe. SGN have been carrying out these replacements as part of a wider programme, developed with the Health & Safety Executive.

SGN project manager Steve McDade said: "We’ve worked closely with the local authorities in planning this work and we will be doing everything we can to limit disruption during our essential work in Wareham.

“We appreciate that roadworks can be frustrating, however, the new plastic pipe has a minimum lifespan of 80 years.

"This means once the work is completed, Wareham homes and businesses will enjoy the benefits of a continued safe and reliable gas supply for many years to come.”

The Wareham gas mains replacement works will involve directional road closures, parking restrictions and temporary traffic lights near the junction of West Street, East Street and South Street.

All local businesses will remain open as usual throughout, SGN says.

In Swanage temporary traffic signals will be in place in the High Street from January 6 until May 31, and the whole length of Institute Road will be closed for the duration of the works.

The work will take place between the junctions with Stafford Road and Taunton Road.

Dorset Council has warned the traffic signals may lead to delays.