LETTER: Road delay

I HAVE no problems with the comments in last week’s paper from the Cancer Research area manager about her shop in Midhurst. Yes, it’s friendly and supports a good cause (one which I also support).

But I’m talking about the greater impact on Midhurst with six charity shops in North Street, the main shopping street in the town and generally the one that visitors see first.

The Town Council, with the help of Chichester District Council has tried to encourage individual traders to encourage visitors and residents alike to shop in the town.

Visitors are vital to the town’s economy but I wonder what the visitors to the Polo or the National Park will think now, given that the tourist partnership tries to promote Midhurst as a ‘high end’ visitor destination.

This current situation has been exacerbated by one of the larger shops being taken over by St Wilfred’s and probably the first shop visitors see, at the bus station, also becoming a rather dowdy charity shop.

For the latter, we must thank Chichester District Council, who on one hand are trying to encourage independent shops and on the other, maximising their rental income.

There is another dimension to charity shops that does the town no favours.

Charity shops are often in competition with normal retailers; retailers who

have to find their rent, buy their goods, staff their

shops, pay their income tax and pay their business rates, all in competition from charities.

The same charities that get free donations, often manned by no-cost volunteers, and who may only pay 20 per cent of their business rates.

If I was running a clothes shop or a gift shop in the town, I would take a very jaundiced view of their competition.

Sadly, because charities have deep pockets and can give rent guarantees to landlords, they can squeeze out those trying to start a business or who cannot give the same assurances on the rent.

Despite the understandable moral and emotional pull of supporting charities, this non the less is a very unfair position for normal retailers to face.

One of my town council colleagues said Midhurst was taking on the appearance of a ‘second-hand town’, this is up to our visitors and residents to decide but the current evidence is not promising.

Gordon McAra

Chairman

Midhurst Town Council Planning Committee