CAFÉ society could be curtailed in Arundel if voters at a referendum next week back the town’s neighbourhood plan.
Some traders fear that the proliferation of cafés and restaurants in Arundel in recent years has been at the expense of the town’s retail ‘offer’ and has led to fewer shoppers visiting.
Now it’s hoped that a new policy will work towards the goal of having at least 80 per cent of units in the town centre trading as shops – at present the figure stands at just 60 per cent, the rest including cafés, restaurants, estate agents, banks and offices.
If the neighbourhood plan is adopted in Tuesday’s referendum, the first of its kind to be held in Sussex, it will become part of Arun District Council’s future local plan. For the first time, Arundel town centre will be recognised as a ‘primary shopping frontage area’, bringing it into line with the greater protection given to Littlehampton, Rustington and Bognor.
The neighbourhood plan policy is to ‘resist proposals for the change of use of an existing retail (A1) premises in the primary shopping frontage to any other use until such a time that the number of A1 uses. . . comprises at least 80 per cent of the total’.
Although the policy would not affect existing non-retail businesses, once in place, it would put a stop to any more shops being converted to other uses.
James Stewart, chairman of the steering group which drafted the neighbourhood plan, said: “We need more retail businesses in Arundel to survive and compete with neighbouring towns such as Chichester, Petworth and Midhurst. We want to do as much as we can through the neighbourhood plan to support the local economy – traders are under a great deal of pressure from the internet and from supermarkets.
“Anecdotally, people don’t seem to feel that there is a strong enough reason to come to Arundel to shop, and we need to reverse that trend. The balance has tipped too far the other way, with coffee shops, restaurants and estate agents.”
Mayor Michael Tu backed up James’ case, saying: “Arundel has a rich and long history as an economic centre, bonded port, market town, antique centre and more recently it has developed into a cultural hub with independent niche shopping and a major visitor destination as well. It is a great place to live, work and play; our neighbourhood plan sets out to protect and enhance the local economy, ensuring the vibrancy and vitality of Arundel for many years to come.”
Voting takes place today (Tuesday, April 8) from 7am-10pm.