17 Jul Member feedback to MSDC
Here is our combined feedback to the planning & economy priorities proposed by Mid Sussex District Council.
If you’d like to add your voice, please do so by emailing Fiona.
- Stuart Guy – Director, The Ravenswood – I agree with all points made. Think it’s great.
- Fen Marriott – Owner, Siesta Beauty – I agree with the points made.
- Amanda Barnes – Chief Exec, Faversham House – i) The rush to change of use from offices to residential over the last two years has meant a loss of large-scale office capacity in East Grinstead. If it continues with there being now no large-scale office facilities apart from Windsor Court/East Grinstead House where we are located, East Grinstead will fail to attract top employers and this in turn diminishes East Grinstead’s position as a business centre. Whilst housing is a top priority most of these conversions seem to be going as rental properties and I question the balance that is being struck. Is it being sufficiently well monitored? ii) Lack of cheap parking for those who commute into East Grinstead for work. This is a perennial problem made far worse by the council’s latest decisions to permit or yellow line many residential streets severely restricting on-street parking. We are lucky enough to have a fair amount of secure onsite parking. However, it is only enough to meet the needs of half of our employees who commute to work by car both those who live in East Grinstead and those who travel in from outlying villages where there is no public transport. The car parks are expensive and increasingly hard to find spaces in. Convenience is a key factor in attracting people to work in East Grinstead. Being able to park for free and be within a 5-10 minute walk of the office is crucial to attracting and retaining talent. This situation needs acknowledging and addressing. I feel as a business owner and leader that we are not sufficiently valued by the council. There is a balance to be struck for residents – if they want a town where the shops are kept open because people use them during the week, then a better accommodation on parking needs to be reached. How many residents commute out of East Grinstead vs. the jobs that businesses provide in East Grinstead? iii) As an employer in East Grinstead competing for talent with our competitors in London, Crawley and Brighton, it is becoming harder and harder to attract people to East Grinstead. The nightmare that is Southern Rail is putting off a lot of people who travel in from places like central London, Clapham, Croydon etc. Another winter of the appalling and erratic service we have suffered will ensure we lose talented people. iv) One thing we have going for ourselves being located in East Grinstead has always been the pleasant town centre within easy walking distance. However, the town is increasingly full of charity shops, coffee shops, building societies, banks, estate agencies and mobile phone shops. Keeping a good variety of individual and well known shops is vital to the health and attractiveness of East Grinstead and to making it a vibrant business centre. The sooner that Queens Walk is redeveloped with a proper anchor tenant such as Marks & Sparks, the better. v) There are roads around the centre of East Grinstead with broken paving slaps and strewn with litter that present a very unattractive face to the town. More needs to be done to make the London Road end of town as attractive as the High Street. It feels very forgotten down this end! The route into the town from the Railway Station is appalling with a long walk up Railway Approach which does not give a good impression of the town. Trying to cross the road from the station/bus station to get to Wood Street is a nightmare. The pedestrian crossing up new the fire station is positioned badly and the traffic chaos means it is hazardous to even edge over the road to turn right into Wood Street. vi) There needs to be better co-ordination of major road works which cause dreadful delays and traffic congestion on the main A22 and other routes into East Grinstead. vii) A rail connection to Brighton would help immensely in attracting creative talent from the Brighton area – convert the Worth Way back into a railway track so East Grinstead meets up with Three Bridges! There was talk of a second line running from Brighton to Hurst Green – this would be great as long as it meets up easily with the EG train timetables – something probably beyond the abilities of Southern
We employ 70 people and they go out at lunchtime and spend money in the local shops keeping these shops going. We need to treasure that more and make their life easier with good, preferably free, parking within easy walking distance of the office, a variety of interesting and useful local shops and amenities and a pleasant litter free environment served by a working railway.
PS we have created 10 new skilled, well-paid professional jobs in the last two years and we are growing fast. Attracting and retaining talent is of the utmost importance to our business and our continued commitment to East Grinstead. We would really like the council to make our life easier not more difficult!
- Oliver Harwood – Partner, RHW Clutton – my suggestions for critical delivery are as follows-
i) Working with partners and leading efforts to secure improvements to infrastructure which ensure excellent strategic accessibility and which enables efficient movement to and around the District; including a by-pass for East Grinstead
ii) Providing high quality digital infrastructure. In particular the extension of high speed broadband to support the development and growth of urban and rural businesses; including affordable digital fibre to the premises throughout the district and
iii) Delivering a mix of housing types and tenure to allow employees to live near their place of work;: delivering the housing need as assessed by the Inspector into the local plan, speeding up planning decisions, and dealing with the block on development arising from the Ashdown Forest issue.
5. Response from the Caravan and Motorhome Club (Fiona Bewers – Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Manager)
Introduction & background
The Caravan and Motorhome Club welcomes the opportunity to respond to the proposals contained in the Economic Development Strategy and its ‘Places, Premises, People’ approach.
The Club currently represents one million caravanners, motor caravanners and trailer tent owners. The Club has around 200 large Sites and some 2,500 Certificated Locations (small sites with a maximum of five pitches), providing the equivalent of over 20 million ‘bed nights’ per annum across the UK. The Club itself is a successful £100 million turnover business providing a wide range of services and activities for its members. It is a leading player in the tourism sector with members contributing over £400m per annum to local economies with their offsite spend during their holidays and breaks.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club has had its head office in East Grinstead since 1975 and is recognised as the town’s largest private sector employer, with over 420 staff based here. At least 50% of these reside in the RH19 postcode area, so the continued viability of the town as an attractive place to live is important. A considerable number commute in from other parts of the Mid Sussex area, so at a wider level the nature of the whole area and its transport infrastructure have a key role to play.
Comments (with focus on East Grinstead)
We would endorse the suggested vision (Mid Sussex: where businesses and people have the opportunity to grow and succeed).
Priority themes: Agree Places, Premises and People as appropriate priority themes.
- Infrastructure improvements
The convenient location of the Club’s head office, within easy walking distance of the town centre and train/bus stations, means that many staff members have an easy commute (walking, cycling). However there is an urgent need to secure infrastructure improvements across transport modes for those who travel in from further afar. The performance of Southern Rail has led to frustrations and delay for staff and visitors to the Club. Traffic congestion remains a perennial problem area as does parking availability. A review of overall transport provision is recommended along with urgent and effective action where necessary.
- Town centre
Caravan and Motorhome Club staff members make a considerable economic contribution to East Grinstead’s retail, services and hospitality sector. A diverse mix of independent and chain outlets is important to attract people into town at lunchtimes and for them to remain in the town centre after working hours for evening entertainment and leisure (including sport/fitness activities). The Club has relationships with many of these independent businesses, who offer discounts to staff members. It is important that small and medium-sized businesses are protected from excessive costs and prohibitive business rate rises, as they are essential to the character of the town.
As mentioned above, many Club staff commute by car, so safe parking availability at a reasonable rate should not be overlooked. More creative and flexible car parking solutions for shoppers should be considered, such as free parking at certain times and longer time periods to allow visitors to spend more time (and money) in the town.
- Stuart Scholes – recent EGBA CEO – I have read with interest the feedback you have received and can only endorse what has been said. I regret to say that generally speaking District and County Council only appear to pay lip service to proposals from local people and businesses. There are many things which could be done with very little cost – these have been raised time and again to no avail.