CITY council leaders have insisted they will help businesses affected by the Central Plaza fiasco in Carlisle.

During a full council meeting on Tuesday night, council deputy leader Gareth Ellis outlined to councillors the promise of a hardship fund for all businesses facing cash pressures because of problems triggered by closures on Victoria Viaduct - caused by the fears over the stability of the derelict former hotel.

Roads around Victoria Viaduct have been closed since last month, which forced businesses to shut as a result.

Mr Ellis said: “We are in the process of setting up a hardship fund for businesses who have lost out and have lost access to their premises.”

Demolition work on the building, ending years of debate, will start on Monday and could take up to four months to complete.

“We have met with the businesses affected and they are being supported,” said Mr Ellis.

“We will be giving them a cash amount so that when the road reopens they will be in a position to open again.

“We are hoping this money will tide them over. It will be a simple process.”

Finer details, including the amount in the pot, are due to be discussed at the next executive meeting on November 18.

During the meeting on Tuesday night, questions were also raised about the reopening of Tesco Metro on Victoria Viaduct.

Noting that last time the road was forced to close Tesco Metro was still open with shoppers able to use the side door.

Addressing the full council she said: “The store is in a good place, near to the bus stop, reasonably priced with a good range of stock.

“Can the council get in touch and put forward the views about it reopening.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We have written to Carlisle City Council to ask them for timescales in relation to the temporary closure to our Victoria Viaduct store.

“In the meantime, colleagues have been transferred to our Warwick Road Superstore, on full pay.

“We are committed to serving our customers in Carlisle and we await further information from the council.”

Although the side door could be used last time, this has not been possible meaning the whole premises had to close.

Work to bring the eyesore building down that has forced the closures is expected to take between three and four months.

Details of the project were outlined to the council during Tuesday’s full council meeting by Carlisle City Council leader John Mallinson.

In a statement he said: “The engineer recommended that we should begin planning for complete demolition.

“The engineer’s full report has now been received and the final enabling works are underway.”

Penetrating ground radar inspections have also been carried out for West Walls, including a three-point cloud survey - a way to collect extremely accurate data about on-site conditions - for West Walls and the Medieval Vaults.

“This is likely to take between three and four months but will be completed as quickly and safely as possible,” continued Mr Mallinson.

“Contractors will continue to work over the Christmas period.”

The total cost of demolition works is £1.35m. That includes the enabling works and professional fees.

Local contractors and engineers have been employed to undertake the work.

The Grade II listed building currently has no owners - it is in escheat but rests with the Crown Estate.

The council continues to ensure that the site is secure and 24-hour security is in place, which includes CCTV cameras.

Mr Mallinson added: “In the interest of public safety road closures were put in place and these will continue to remain in place.”

Closures were put in place by Cumbria County Council’s highways team. Anyone with enquires regarding the diversions is urged to call its Highway’s Hotline on 0300 303 2992 or email

The city council is working with businesses directly affected, setting up a hotline to enable those affected to have direct access to a support team. The number for the hotline is 01228 817444 or email