Chichester business blames ‘lack of council support’ for closing after 60 years

Lesley and Keith Messam. Keith's father David Messam founded the DIY store in 1959 but it will now close in July

David Messam has been a staple on Chichester’s high street for nearly 60 years – but now the family-run hardware store is to close.

Distraught owners Keith and Lesley Messam said a lack of council support, soaring business rates and competition from out-of-town chains had forced their difficult decision.

Lesley said: “It’s so sad, we have always been known as the shop which sells everything.

“We had no choice, the local authorities don’t support independent businesses here. We get no help and our rates have kept going up.

“We’re not allowed an A-board outside or a hanging sign, it’s all these little things that have eaten away at us.

“Screwfix, Wickes and Toolstation have all opened out of town where customers don’t have to pay for parking, as well as internet shopping.”

The couple said their business rates had risen to around £2,400 a month and they were not entitled to small business rate reduction because of their central location on East Street.

“Chichester used to be a really different town, renowned for having lots of lovely independents which visitors loved,” Lesley said.

“All you have now is cafés and restaurants, it’s no wonder footfall is down and people have stopped coming here.”

In 1959, Keith’s father David Messam turned his own parents’ haberdashery shop into the DIY store carrying his name. Keith, who took over in 1977, said: “I was seven when my father took over and working here is all I’ve known so it’s going to be a big pull on me when it closes on July 29.

“It’s been coming for some time, our takings have been down by about £80,000 a year for the last ten years.

“Brexit has probably been the final nail in the coffin, it put the prices of some of our products up by 20 per cent.”

The couple said telling long-standing staff who are ‘like family’ they would be made redundant was ‘horrible’, adding: “We would like to thank our loyal custmers for their years of support.”

Chichester District Council said it has a range of schemes to support independent businesses, expressing regret that David Messam will shut.

A spokesman said: “It has been a challenging environment for businesses and the retail sector in particular has experienced major changes over the past few years.

“This was recognised by the council which is why we encouraged the formation of the Chichester Business Improvement District.

“It has just been renewed for another five-year term and its work will include greater marketing and promotion of the city centre and its businesses.

“We understand that business rates are an issue of great concern to businesses but unfortunately we have no control over them.

“We collect them on behalf of central government which then considers how this money is redistributed across the country.

“Over the last eight years the rates for this particular business have only increased modestly and in 2017 actually went down very slightly.

“The Small Business Relief scheme is also based on the rateable value, which is set by the Valuation Agency.”

The spokesman added that a decision to remove unauthorised A-boards was taken in 2013 ‘to improve the appearance of the city centre and protect the historic environment as well as improve accessibility’.

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