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HONITON: Calls to combat retail threat

Thursday, 03 April 2014

Businesses leaders have called for a reassessment of parking prices in Honiton to enable traders to compete with a new multi-million pound retail complex planned for the eastern outskirts of Exeter.
The brand new development, which will be built on land near Sowton Industrial Estate, will include a number of shops, cafes, restaurants and other services, and could create up to 400 new jobs.
But business owners in Honiton have expressed their concern that the construction of a major retail park within driving distance of the town could have a damaging effect on high street trade, and the Chamber of Commerce has renewed calls for parking charges to be reduced to encourage shoppers into the town.
Of particular concern to Honiton traders is the loss of shoppers from Cranbrook, who could opt to use the new retail park instead.
Colin Wright, chairman of Honiton’s Chamber of Commerce, who also chairs the Association of East Devon Chambers, said the new development was “worrying”.
He said: “The retail park is one hell of a complex and so easy to get to, which makes it worrying for us in terms of future footfall – we could certainly miss out on people coming in from Cranbrook. Any more buildings and developments like this are going to be a threat to us, and we have to do something to alleviate that threat and make Honiton a little bit different.”
Plans for the new retail park, which will be known as the Moor Exchange, also feature a health and fitness centre, optician, chemist, travel agency and crèche, as well as banking facilities and a range of food and drink outlets.
If the development is granted planning permission, work could begin on the site next year, with a view to phased openings in the spring of 2016.
Mr Wright also said that improving options for parking in the town would be one practical measure that could reduce the impact.
He added: “We do need to update High Street and we are looking at ways we can do that, which could include planting trees and pedestrianising sections of the town centre.
“But our main concern is the price of parking – it would be a terrific advantage to the town to have cheaper options and would help to give us a fighting chance against these developments, which seem to be coming thick and fast.
“They have been chipping away at us and we need to have the incentives to draw holiday makers as well as local people from Honiton and the surrounding area into the town.”
Visitors to Honiton who use the car parks in King Street and Silver Street currently pay at least £1 an hour, and the Chamber believes the expense is driving customers out of the town.
Councillor Peter Corke, Honiton Town Council’s representative for the Chamber of Commerce, said he shared traders’ concerns and that Honiton had been “kicked in the ditch” with regard to East Devon District Council’s recent rejection of Heathpark as a location for its new offices.
The land could now be snapped up by a private developer and at least one major supermarket is said to be in the running to build on the site.
Councillor Corke said: “Again, this is not very good news for Honiton. With regard to recent decisions, Honiton has been kicked in the ditch.
“After all the efforts made by traders in the town to try and pull shoppers in, they are being dashed into the ground with developments like this.
“I would expect the Chamber to be debating this at its committee meeting next month.”


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