Urgent meeting called to discuss Sidmouth High Street's survival before it's too late

PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 March 2018

Local business owners Sharon Hobson,Steve Clarke,Stewart Hayman and Steven Kendall-Torry. Ref shs 13 18TI 0288. Picture: Terry Ife

Local business owners Sharon Hobson,Steve Clarke,Stewart Hayman and Steven Kendall-Torry. Ref shs 13 18TI 0288. Picture: Terry Ife

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Struggling Sidmouth business owners have called for an urgent meeting to discuss the survival of the town's high street before it is too late.

Local business owners Sharon Hobson,Steve Clarke,Stewart Hayman and Steven Kendall-Torry. Ref shs 13 18TI 0294. Picture: Terry IfeLocal business owners Sharon Hobson,Steve Clarke,Stewart Hayman and Steven Kendall-Torry. Ref shs 13 18TI 0294. Picture: Terry Ife

The Herald has previously reported the fears of a number of independent traders who did not know how they would continue if something was not done to make the business rates fairer in the town.

A group of business owners met this week to discuss a situation which is making it hard for them to continue, with issues like parking, pavements and the lack of support from local authorities being mentioned.

Among those who attended were Steve and Lyn Clarke, of The Rendezvous, John Wycherley, of Sidmouth Gifts, Steven Kendall-Torry, of Pure Indulgence, Stewart Hayman, of Hayman’s Bucthers and Sharon Hobson, of Flutterbys.

Mr Hayman, of the Church Street butchers, said he did not make any profits last year and - if he had not owned the building - would have struggled to stay in business. The 67-year-old added that, when he retires, he cannot see how Hayman’s can continue - and would most likely close down after more than 110 years in business.

Local business owners Sharon Hobson,Steve Clarke,Stewart Hayman and Steven Kendall-Torry. Ref shs 13 18TI 0294. Picture: Terry IfeLocal business owners Sharon Hobson,Steve Clarke,Stewart Hayman and Steven Kendall-Torry. Ref shs 13 18TI 0294. Picture: Terry Ife

A rallying call has now been issued for Sidmouth businesses to attend a meeting to highlight the issues faced by independent shops. Among those who will be invited will be MP Sir Hugo Swire, along with representatives from the town, district and county councils, Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Sir Hugo told the Herald he would be more than happy to arrange a meeting for people to voice their concerns.

Sir Hugo said: “People’s shopping patterns are changing and, more and more, people are shopping online – this has been a concern for sometime. We can’t change this, but we can be more creative in helping to fill the high street with independent shops and not chains. We need to think of how we can retain our independent stores and encourage more into the town. We could maybe look at ways we could help local shops, which use locally-sourced produce, through some kind a business rate relief. One way we could do this is by turning some shops back into affordable accommodation. We wold then have families and communities living near the high street, regenerating the town centre.”

Sir Hugo said that, to make a difference, local authorities would need to lobby the Government to recognise the problem that independent stores are finding it hard to survive.

A date for the meeting has yet to be set.

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