Business owners continue to fight for ‘vanishing’ high street

Saagar Patel of Pulborough Stores (front left), is concerned about the impact car parking charges have had on the state of Pulborough's high street. Pic Steve Robards

Business owners in Pulborough’s ‘vanishing’ high street have expressed their disappointment with Horsham District Council after car park charges led to the closure of a village shop.

Saagar Patel, the owner of Pulborough Stores – a convenience store in Lower Street – said the parking charges have ‘frustrated’ small business owners in Pulborough and forced some shops to close.

On Saturday, Gatley’s Country Store and Pet Shop, also in Lower Street, closed for the final time just months after banks Barclays and Natwest left the village.

Robin Duke, the owner of Gatley’s, said his decision was based on the reduction of customers as a result of car parking charges.

Mr Patel said he has also battled to attract customers to his shop since taking over earlier this year.

He added: “Small business owners are frustrated and share the concerns expressed by Robin Duke and Gatley’s.

“A survey carried out last year found that 67 per cent of respondents classed Lower Street as the centre of the village but Horsham District Council decided it was Tesco despite only 17 per cent of respondents saying it was there.

“They have just totally gone against what the statistics have told them.”

Mr Patel took over the shop four months ago and has updated stock and installed a free-to-use cash machine for customers inside.

He added: “There are no longer any banks in Lower Street so I had a free cash machine installed to help lift that burden on local residents who also shop here.

“People now have somewhere to go and I am trying my best to make it better but it is not easy when you don’t feel like you have support.

“I am changing the front of the store this week to give it a bit more of an updated look.”

In an email to Horsham District Council in November 2016, Stephen Suter – the owner of MJ Suter, a butchers in Lower Street – asked for one hour free parking.

He wrote: “We are asking that the car park in Pulborough have one hour free parking in order to maintain the footfall to protect the village shops as many of our customers come from the Chichester (district) council area and will not purchase a disk for Horsham.”

Pulborough Parish Council said shops closing in the village is ‘very regrettable’ but it would approach the district council about parking concerns.

In a statement, the council added: “Pulborough Parish Council is certainly concerned about any impact that the car park charges introduced by Horsham District Council may be having on local businesses/traders, combined with vehicles parking beyond the legitimate one hour in high street lay-bys.

“Any shops or services closing in the area is very regrettable and not likely to improve the local economy or vibrancy of the area.

“The matter was considered by full council meeting on October 19, when members looked at data received and decided that we would approach the district council to raise continued concerns about the detrimental effect on Lower Street businesses and request that they reconsider the scheme and give Pulborough special dispensation by introducing at least a one hour free parking phase to the Lower Street car park.”

Horsham District Council has been approached for comment.

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