Station newsagent could be evicted next Tuesday

HORSHAM’s self proclaimed Newsagent Provocateur John O’Sullivan is warning his shop at Horsham railway station could be forced shut next Tuesday (March 29).

On Wednesday morning (March 23), the shop keeper received a solicitor’s letter which stated: “Please take this letter as our clients formal notice for you to vacate the unit on 29th March 2011.”

John told the County Times he was ‘shocked and seething’ at this latest development, which stems from his refusal to sign a new tenancy agreement which he believes is one-sided and unfair.

“It’s not just me,” he said. “I have seven members of staff, one full-time lady and six part-time. They are taking their jobs away and denying a valuable service to commuters and train passengers.”

The would–be comedian, renowned for his spoof billboards outside the Candy Box in the Carfax, is irretrievably in the process of selling this other shop to make time to further his ambitions as a professional stand-up. The thought of now losing his station shop too is ‘very stressful’.

In May, planned works begin to give Horsham station a major upgrade. The nine month project includes the creation of a new station entrance and ticket office.

Southern Railway also declare there will be ‘greatly improved and increased retail outlets’, and that current retail facilities will be affected during the refurbishment period.

John is frustrated at the lack of engagement he has had with Southern, and so far has refused to sign a proposed new tenancy, bringing this current situation to a head.

It states the new ‘tenancy at will is terminable at any time’. John said: “I want to know what is going on first before I sign anything. It seems I will have to bid for my own shop, having built it up for six years, competing with big businesses. I don’t like the way I’ve been treated. No guarantees - just sign this and get lost!

“They don’t care,” he added. “It’s all about money. I think they just want a big corporate to run the business, which will affect customers. They won’t be opening at 5am every morning! This decision will affect customers.”

A spokesman from Southern said: “Horsham station will be undergoing major refurbishment work under the National Stations Improvement Programme (NSIP) scheme. NSIP is a Department for Transport funded programme of projects designed to enhance approximately 150 medium sized stations across the rail network in England and Wales to make a noticeable and lasting improvement to the environment at selected stations for the benefit of passengers.

“Starting at the beginning of May, the refurbishment work at the station includes the re-arrangement of the internal layout to provide a greatly improved passenger experience and increased retail provision to enhance the basic station facilities.

“As part of the refurbishment, the three retail units at the station will be removed. The tenants have been given the appropriate notice that they will not be able to continue their activities as a matter of course when the new retail units are ready for use. Each tenant will be given the opportunity to tender for a retail space when we are in a position to offer places.

“The leasing arrangements between Mr Sullivan and Southern have been reviewed. We are not prepared to discuss this as it is not in the public interest.”

Do you use the newsagent in Horsham Station? What do you think of the impending closure? Leave your comments below or email ct.news@sussexnewspapers.co.uk