With Worthing’s town centre suffering, like so many others, with the closure of HMV, Jessops and Blockbusters, the County Councillor for the town centre area, James Doyle, is calling for joint action on an immediate plan to support the retail heart of the town.
James Doyle in Worthing Town Centre: bringing bikes to the heart of the town helps people shop cheaper, quicker and greener.
‘Both the County and Borough Councils, along with the Town Centre Initiative (TCI), need to engage quickly with the retailers in Worthing’s main shopping area, and work together to ensure that Worthing can ride out these adverse conditions and come out ahead of its rivals. I’m proposing a four-point plan of action:
- Enhance the street environment: improve the paving in Montague Street, make the crossing of Crescent Road into the ‘West End’ more pedestrian-friendly, and look at shared use in the West End. The County Council has already agreed to look at some of these points, and consultation on the Crescent Road crossing should take place soon, I hope this will be only the first step in an ongoing programme of improvements.
- Set up a virtual High Street for Worthing: the Borough Council and TCI need to develop a website and smartphone app to bring all of Worthing’s shops together, developing a stronger appeal for shoppers and allowing cross-promotion of offers and discounts which would be usable on a customer’s next actual shopping trip into Worthing. Who knows, we could even promote discounts on the car parks!
- Support Independent Traders: concentrate the work of organisations that offer business training, advice and support around the independent traders who make our town centre unique; Worthing is at the mercy of chains, but we can encourage those traders, like Type 40 Toys in Montague Street, who bring in visitors from far and wide.
- Act on Empty Shops: one fifth of Worthing’s empty shops have been empty for over two years; and rents have not been lowered in that time. The Borough Council and TCI need to call commercial landlords to account for their passive sabotage of Worthing’s economy, and ask why they are unwilling to drop rents to get shops open again. The council should name and shame those landlords who are not doing enough. One of the UK’s leading experts on empty shops, Dan Thompson, lives in Worthing and is a passionate advocate for the local economy; why is the Borough Council not using his expertise and advice?
‘These points may not solve all the problems of Worthing’s retail sector, but I hope that they will be a starting point. We cannot stand idly by while a vital part of our economy withers away for lack of support.’