Parking threatens quality businesses - shop owner

Alan Morgenroth in the Mill Street car park

Alan Morgenroth in the Mill Street car park - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth risks losing more quality shops and hotels if parking cannot be brought under control, the owner of one of the town’s oldest businesses has warned.

Alan Morgenroth said transport difficulties had worsened in the 30 years he has run Goviers of Sidmouth – deterring wealthy shoppers and attracting the ‘wrong sort’.

He fears the town is losing its reputation as a unique destination and puts the blame at the feet of local government for failing to address parking problems.

“You used to be able to come to Sidmouth for a different shopping experience,” he said. “That’s disappearing.

“Now it’s become known as the charity shop capital of the South West.

“Sidmouth is attracting the wrong people.”

Mr Morgenroth was speaking in the wake of the introduction of new charges at the Mill Street car park. East Devon District Council (EDDC) last year trebled the annual permit cost to £1,800, plus rates for businesses.

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Goviers had used it for three decades, but now Mr Morgenroth is refusing to continue out of principle.

Permits have been sold for just half of the 46 bays, leading to fears from some nearby residents that the authority will use the lack of demand as an excuse to develop the land.

Mr Morgenroth said the same thing happened when the Northcott garage car park was built over with new homes – losing parking spaces and potentially bringing in more motorists.

“Bit by bit they have taken parking away,” he said. “It’s getting like FolkWeek 52 weeks of the year.

“You used to get people coming for the day from Bath or Bristol – now they drive a long way to find there’s nowhere to park.”

Mr Morgenroth is calling for Mill Street to be used as a short stay car park, the development of a park and ride, and charges for parking at Knowle.

He said his business – established in 1904 – loses customers every day because they have to rush back to their cars.

Goviers ships china and glass around the world but is one of a dying breed on Britain’s high streets – and Mr Morgenroth has to weigh up the costs of remaining open.

“Sidmouth is lucky to have a shop like this but there is increasingly little to say this is the best place for me to trade from,” he said.

“We’ve lost all the other shops people would come to Sidmouth for – what would happen if Fields ever closed down?”

He cited the loss of independent shops such as Bells and Knights, and the rise of multi-nationals and charity shops, as threats to Sidmouth’s reputation as a ‘unique’ shopping destination.

And this has ramifications for its ‘quality’ hotels, Mr Morgenroth warned.

An EDDC spokesman said there is currently no plan to develop the Mill Street car park, where permits are now offered on a first-come, first -served basis.

If, in the ‘unlikely’ event, the remaining 23 permits are not sold, later this summer councillors will be asked to consider making the remaining spaces pay and display – although they were previously reluctant due to concerns about confusion and congestion.

The spokesman added: “While we are sympathetic to the loss of parking spaces within the town, there is an overwhelming need for affordable homes in both Sidmouth and East Devon.

“To help ensure deliverability of these much-needed affordable homes, it was necessary to combine two elements, namely the loss of a number of council car parking spaces and the demolition of a former gym.”

Residents and people who work in the town were recommended to use the 300 spaces at Manor Road and shorter term visitors park in the 350 bays at the Ham or Roxburgh.

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