MP calls for more support for local businesses

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Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called for national and local agencies to get behind local businesses and not to put unnecessary hurdles in their way.

The MP’s comments came after he visited The Sussex Produce Company in Steyning recently after the shop’s owner, Nick Hempleman, said that he had been seeking planning permission to secure access for deliveries to the rear of his new premises for well over a year. 

The company sources high quality food and drink from Sussex, supporting over 70 local farmers and producers.  

Since it was founded in 2007, the business has grown significantly, moving into larger premises in the old Co-op store in the High Street in 2011.  

The shop now includes a cafe, and received the accolade of Sussex Food Shop of the Year last year.

Mr Herbert, an enthusiast for locally-grown produce, has called into the store on a number of occasions, but this was his first visit to the new premises.

Nick Hempleman says: “I believe passionately that we should support our local farmers and food producers. Sussex produces some of the best food in the country whether it is wine, beer, cheeses or vegetables.  You see it often on the menus of top London restaurants but all too rarely on local supermarket shelves.

“We are proud to sell such a wide selection and we are very grateful to Nick Herbert for all his support.”

Mr Herbert said: “Business is hard enough without us adding to the burden. It’s up to local councils, not me, to judge the merits of applications like this. But why has this process taken so long?

“This is only the most recent of far too many complaints which I’ve been hearing from local businesses about the glacial pace of planning decisions. We need small and medium sized businesses to thrive. That means central and local government having a pro-enterprise outlook. Their starting point should be: ‘how can we help this business to succeed?’ Instead, too often, we’re lining up the hurdles for them to jump over. 

“This isn’t about ripping up the planning rules or ignoring the protections for our countryside. It’s about ensuring that the paperwork for businesses is minimised and decisions aren’t dragged out.”

The MP added that he was planning a meeting for South Downs business owners to hear more about the problems and discuss how unnecessary barriers to growth could be removed.