by Frances Haigh on 5 July, 2013
I welcome the West Street Enhancement Project as it is an opportunity to give West Street a much needed face-lift. There have been sterling efforts to improve the town, especially by the town centre manager promoting events such as Piazza Italia and by Horsham Markets attracting local producers. I hope that some of the traders in West Street will take the opportunity to update their premises alongside this project.
However, I am concerned that whereas this project may draw in more occasional visitors, it overlooks the needs of residents. Horsham is essentially a market town. People want to pop in for their small errands. Older people need to be coming in regularly to help keep mobile and reduce isolation. Younger people need to fit in their errands around long working days and school hours. It is an ideal town to be welcoming and accessible for people with disabilities. Horsham is not a place for major shopping expeditions like Brighton or Guildford. Its offering has to add some personal service or other value such as home delivery to compete with the internet which is available 24/7.
The Conservative Councillors, who are mainly from the south of the district, do not appreciate the problems that are caused by the parking charges. On the doorstep and on Horsham Facebook, the main complaint is about excessive charges and over-zealous enforcement officers. There are parking problems on side streets such as Elm Grove and Merryfield Drive because drivers are avoiding using the car parks. Many people say that they save up their errands so they make as few trips in to town as possible. Alternatively they park in Sainsbury’s car park which is free, or they go to Tesco’s at Broadbridge Heath, losing trade for the town altogether.
We have been told that increasing the charges has little effect on the car park usage; this is because many of us have been reducing our trips for years. If we want to really bring the buzz back to the town, especially on week days, we need to look at reducing the charges and introducing schemes such as “Free after Three” to encourage people back in after the school run. Maybe some shops and cafés could offer longer hours to support this trade. We need hourly charges rather than a high charge for up to two hours, so that shoppers come in frequently. And we need to think very carefully about the impact of the proposed Waitrose development which will have major consequences for the east of the town.
We should also abandon the evening charges which are damaging our night-time economy. This is really killing off the goose! The small amounts raised deter people from coming into the town and really cannot be justified for the harm that they have done.