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Opinion: Nik Butler, @loudmouthman

The news of Starbucks in Horsham closing down has come as a surprise. Many greeted it with sadness, but no doubt a few are delighted to see one less global chain in town.

Having previously discussed how we might support independent retailers, I am left wondering what message has been sent when one of the world’s largest coffee chains will not rent property in Horsham. Colour me pessimistic if I suggest we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. They were not the only retailer leasing property and I wonder what is on the minds of other tenants on hearing this news.

Costs are rising or it may be a symptom of a market which is freely adjusting to demand despite the desires of its consumers. It would be lazy punditry to accuse landlords of being greedy or that they may have set rates too high, while we might admonish them for not taking a long-term view in having ‘half of something’ rather than ‘all of nothing’.

In conversations I have read and heard, there is a continued lack of a coherent ‘community voice’. Through planning reports and presentations, it is presented what Horsham shall be and how it shall prosper – though this rarely seems in lockstep with public opinion.

If we trust that a market town with its many boutique outlets and independent retailers will draw both income and an audience, then we should have a town centre designed for the possible continual turnaround of vacant units.

If we want more music venues and more festivals, then parking, restaurants and transit should be our focus – and with it the gallons of teas and coffees required to lubricate the roadies accompanying the acts.

If we want to encourage new business for an internet era, then we need faster broadband and better rural broadband to go with it.

In having considered these few options, I wonder why we cannot have all of them. What does Horsham want to be?

2 comments on “Opinion: Nik Butler, @loudmouthman

  1. Overall, the pattern here is for a more flexible, agile and adaptable town centre; one that is more about social activity and not just just shopping, and which is based on local, grassroots enterprise rather than relying on big chain retailers. It’s a big shift away from what Town Centre Managers and local authorities have thought was the ideal they should aim for; big units for big business.

    Horsham’s not alone in this – it’s happening quietly across the country. But it’s great that @loudmouthman is focusing attention on it, and leading a debate on something that’s really quite important.

  2. This is the South East of England – there is no ,nor will there ever be, a “coherent community voice” This is the Tory heart land, the land of “Look out for yourself”, “Not my problem mate” and rampant NIMBY’ism – where the cost of everything is known and value to local communities ie benefit to others is disregarded.

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