Traders say repeated power cuts in Heathfield are threatening its economy.

Rupert Simmons, town representative at East Sussex County Council, says the series of electricity blackouts over the past few years could prompt some businesses to move out of the area if the supply is not made reliable.

He estimates there have been about 20 power cuts and fears suppliers will not be able to cope with the high demand for electricity this winter.

Coun Simmons said: "We have had an infuriating series of power cuts over the last three or four years and have done our absolute best to make attempts to try to get a more reliable supply.

"A number of houses don't have gas and even if they have oil fired boilers they are still dependent on electricity and having no means of generating warmth is a concern for the elderly."

Business owners in the town are fed up with how the cuts are affecting their livelihoods.

Alan Staples, who runs a chartered accountancy, said they had cost his company up to £10,000 a day in loss of business and having to send staff home.

Trevor Goldsmith, chairman of the Heathfield Chamber of Commerce, said: "It does cause problems for businesses which use computers because you can't tell when one is going to happen or when it's going to end."

A spokeswoman for EDF Energy, which supplies the area, said the company had invested almost £300,000 on improvements to the power supply.

She said: "This investment has greatly increased the security of power supplies for customers in the town, who we know were concerned about the number of power cuts they had experienced in the past.

"We constantly monitor the performance of our network to identify areas which need improvement and will consider further programmes should specific problems be identified in the Heathfield area."

Thursday December 11, 2003