IN less than 12 months, two Petworth businesses say they will have been forced to move out of town.
Businesses have claimed parking rules, alongside sky-high business rates and planning regulations, are forcing them to shut up shop.
Jane Walton owns the Decorative Collective in East Street and has fought a long battle with the council over her signs and lighting.
She said: “I’m shutting the shop at the end of September. Footfall has fallen dramatically due to the lack of signage, so I hope the council is very pleased with itself.”
Mia Woodford is set to become the second business-owner to leave in less than a year, and says an incident between a parking warden and a customer on August bank holiday was the ‘nail in the coffin’.
“Parking in Petworth is a real issue so rather than renew our lease, I am looking at premises out of town,” she told the Observer.
“It is a difficult market for anyone, and the council just make it harder. I will stay until Christmas. We have worked so hard, I just don’t think we would want to do it for another year.”
Mia owns The Vintage Tack Room, open seven days a week at the top of Market Square. “We have five spaces outside, limited to an hour.
“On bank holiday, a parking warden chased most of my customers away.
“On top of this, our business rates are based on pre-recession rates, which is crazy. The rate is almost the same as my rent and the small business discount is tiny.
“I employ four members of staff, one a graduate and the other three who where made redundant, so I am creating jobs.
“It is a huge shame. This is a great location, but opening every day and paying staff costs money.
“There is so much psychology to shopping. People lose their momentum if they don’t feel relaxed.
“They should not feel pressured or in a rush. If Sunday shopping was more established in Petworth, it might help increase people traffic in the town.
“The council needs to decide what they are getting more money from – wardens, or my business rates – it is one or the other.”
Susan Wade is a shop assistant at The Vintage Tack Room. She said she ‘feels very strongly’ about parking, which is an issue for her as both a resident and worker.
“I was serving customers when a traffic warden started taking down the number of their car,” she said.
“They left the shop, and we lost business. It is so frustrating. The council is supposed to promote small businesses, but this is completely counterproductive. You can’t say you are supporting businesses then give tickets to our customers.”
A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “Parking restrictions in Petworth are in place to help the free movement of traffic, encourage trade through short-stay parking on street, and to help reduce congestion through this busy town.
“Roadside signs make restrictions very clear and enforcement is a key tool used to ensure compliance with those restrictions.
“There is a large long-stay car park in the centre of the town, and this council would actively encourage shoppers and visitors to use this.”
For the full feature, including more comments from traders, see this week’s Observer (September 4).