THE go-ahead for an estate agent to move into a former shop at Sussex House in the historic core of Midhurst has re-ignited the debate about the success of trade in the town.
On one hand, the Cowdray Estate, which owns the building, has refuted the claim there is a demand for shop space, saying a large number of retail premises are vacant in the town.
“As such, while the economy is improving, the market is by no means strong and the fact this particular property has not been vacant for long is not a reason to object to a local business expanding.”
The previous owner, ‘Josephine’s Interiors’, gave up after just a lease saying footfall was poor and parking restrictions did not help.
Cherry Potts, who opened a green grocery next door and even got a weekly market going in the Square opposite, has also now given up her business.
But there is no denying there are other businesses which are thriving in the town and the rate of vacant shop windows is lower than anywhere else in the country.
Carole Sharp, who came to Midhurst three years ago with her Exclusive Cake Company, is about to expand to Chichester and the Crafty Pint, opened by Andrew Chiverton more recently, is also a success story, to name but two.
And there is no evidence to support the Cowdray Estate’s chief executive’s claim that the town centre is about to lose Pizza Express.
A spokesman for the company told the Observer: “We currently have no plans to leave Midhurst.
“The team is doing a fantastic job and is very much focused on delivering a great Christmas.”
Vice-chairman of Midhurst Town Council John Quilter was a member of the original Vision Group and is still part of the Town Team.
“The rate of take-up of premises depends a lot on the rent and rates– not always competitive and it’s no longer really relevant to look at footfall in isolation,” he said.
“Most successful independent traders nowadays have a mix of retail premises and web/facebook presence.”
See the full feature in this week’s Observer (January 1).