PAUL O’BRIEN: New council charges could disrupt cafe culture

Paul O'Brien
Paul O'Brien

You may have read in last week’s paper the council’s plans to start charging and cracking down on the use of A-boards and outdoor seating in the Worthing town centre area, which has been an extremely hot topic of discussion between us traders this week.

While we agree some areas do look tatty and seating can perhaps be out too wide to allow safe passage, Worthing’s plan seems to be to go from zero tolerance to a full blown attack on small businesses who need these vital pieces of advertising.

In the 18 years I’ve been in the town working, from memory, we have had one accident with an A-board – one rather silly business leaving theirs out after dark and it blowing over.

Does this really necessitate the council’s new rules and regulations?

Let’s start by looking at the mooted charge of £200 per year for an outside advertising board.

For us small businesses that’s our yearly holiday gone, and no way in line with other town centres in England.

For instance, Liverpool charge £50, Wolverhampton £25, Southwark £81.50, and even the leafy, moneyed suburb of Islington charge just £109. In fact Worthing will be the most expensive high street in the country!

This hasn’t even been thought out correctly enough to include flag banners, which some business have with heavy large bases and do not constitute and A-Board!

We then have rules about where you can put them and what size they can be. It goes on and on!

If you are a small trader in a side street, like myself and many others, we predict we will lose up to 20 per cent of our custom without A-boards at the end of the street.

It simply wont be viable to carry on trading for some.

The council will tell you this is an administrative fee, but when you take into account there are around 800 A-boards in the town centre area, you are looking at a healthy £160,000 – this will double with seating fees on top.

Our cafes and restaurants bring masses of people to the town with their outdoor seating areas – most are packed out in the summer months.

These areas will now become smaller with the council charging by the square foot, meaning our cafe culture will be forever disrupted.

Worthing town centre thrives on two things – full unique shops and a great food offer.

If these new plans get passed through full council, I can see the town becoming a very different place.

Is that what we really want? I, for one, will stand fast and refuse to pay the fee.

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