Surrey cafe owner near M25 'loses £135k' as roadworks 'cripple business'

Stephen of Ockham Bites has noticed a sharp decline in footfall
Stephen of Ockham Bites has noticed a sharp decline in footfall -Credit:Stephen Bungay

A Surrey business owner near the M25 says he has lost £135,000 in 18 months due to ongoing road work disruption on the motorway.

Stephan Bungay’s Ockham Bites, in Cobham, says he used to see queues snaking down the car park at the beauty spot, Ockham Common.

Once taking around £6,500 a week, Stephen claims his earnings have dropped dramatically to £300 some weeks. Work on the M25 at Wisley Interchange, boasting £310 million expenditure to widen the road and make driving conditions safer launched in September 2022 and won’t end until summer 2025.

In 18 months, Stephen claims his business has been down £135,000.. Meanwhile, Stephen continues to pay staff wages, utility bills and pay for stock that is getting wasted as it’s not being bought.

To cope with the strain, Stephen has stopped paying rent to the council and now owes £40,000 in fees, and made serious cutbacks. Stephen said: “I sold my Mustang for £20,000 and am now living on my savings.

“The last time the M25 closed in both directions we stayed open and it wasn’t worth it. It’s like starting all over again, I don’t think it’ll pick up again until March 2026.”


Dog at the front stand at Ockham Bites
Dog walkers and their pooches love to visit Ockham Bites -Credit:Ockham Bites

The cafe is located on Ockham Common, a gorgeous spot that's great for dog walks, and being at one with nature. Nearby, visitors can find a historic mausoleum and a semaphore tower, at Chatley Heath that adjoins Ockham Common.

Stephen added: “I’ve noticed much more wastage. I went through the stock and had to throw out long-lasting foods like packets of crisps because it’s past the sell-by date.”

National Highways has worked on improving the car park at Ockham Bites and adding four bridleway bridges across the busy highway. It’s hoped the new junction, improved car park and bridleway will help bring more customers once completed.

However, the 48-year-old has noticed that money has been tight for the business. Ongoing traffic and road closures have led to a decline in footfall, Stephen believes.

The father of four said: “It’s really, really bad. It’s just been a nightmare. We have a really successful business, I’ve been running it since June 2002.

“The works began at the end of summer in 2022, and by Christmas, we were already down £20,000. I’ve had no financial help from National Highways, but legally, it’s not obligated to.”

A National Highways spokesperson said: “We are grateful to people for their patience and understanding while this complex but much-needed upgrade is being carried out. We have been engaging with Stephen Bungay at Ockham Bites, and his landlord Surrey County Council, since 2017 and have kept access to the car park open for the vast majority of the scheme as well as spending £5k with Ockham Bites for supplies for our workforce. The improved junction will bring benefits for the many thousands of drivers that use this busy junction every day and surrounding businesses once completed.”

The closure this weekend

The M25 in Surrey will be shut in both directions for the second of five full weekend closures planned throughout 2024. This is to allow for a new bridge to be installed and comes as part of a £317 million scheme at the Wisley Interchange where the A3 meets the motorway.

The second-ever planned full weekend closure of the M25 is due to take place this weekend from 9pm Friday, May 10 until 6am Monday, May 13. The motorway will be shut in both directions between Junction 9 for Leatherhead and Junction 10 for the A3.

National Highways highlighted this is a different section of the London Orbital than that which had to be shut in March. The first details of a 19-mile diversion route have now been shared that will use the A3 and A243. Full mapped routes can be found here.

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