Duncan Barkes: Is battle for high street already lost?

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WE keep hearing about the battle to save the high street and how we should be ensuring that small, independent businesses can still thrive in the face of the big retail chains, but has the battle already been lost?

It amazes me how the growing rash of coffee shops actually make any money, but they are everywhere.

People bang on about being under the cosh financially, and yet always seem to find three quid for a bucket of caffè latte.

A trip to Chichester is an interesting experience these days. If you want a bowl of pasta, a piece of bling, a cappuccino or to place a bet, you are well served.

But if you fancy picking up a piece of sirloin, some fresh fish or a bunch of bananas, you have to leave the city centre, unless you want to pay M&S prices.

Some towns do remarkably well when it comes to supporting small traders.

Littlehampton still has a greengrocer in the arcade that has been there since 1986. Rustington manages to sustain a couple of butchers’ shops. Worthing is home to fishmongers, butchers and grocers, and Shoreham is pretty well provided for, too, when it comes fruit, veg, meat and fish from independent traders.

I know I have focused on food in this instance, but if these outlets can prosper, then why not other independent shops?

Some local councils have a case to answer, and the recent decision by Chichester District Council to persecute shops who promote their existence with ‘A’ boardsreally questions their support of independent traders.

Landlords, too, are part of the problem, as they know they can get bigger bucks from a retail chain than a small business.

Perhaps those in question would like to consider supporting their local community?

Reforming business rates, cutting red tape, and a pragmatic attitude towards town-centre parking charges are also part of the solution, but is there a hunger for it?

I can see why many prefer the easy option of the supermarket and online shopping.

But if independent shops are to be supported, then some radical action is required before the high street is confined to the history books.

• Agree or disagree with Duncan’s views? Share your thoughts by sending an email to letters@worthingherald.co.uk, letters@shorehamherald.co.uk or letters@littlehamptongazette.co.uk, or by commenting below.