IAN HART: Even a positive can be deemed a negative
I'm very much in the category of being a Worthingite who can recall the halcyon days of Montague Street.
In fact, I seem to have a dim and distant memory of visiting Father Christmas at Walter Brothers in the 1960s and have a vague recollection of cars driving where the precinct is now.
It’s fair to say in the annals of Worthing’s history, Montague Street has missed the boat on a number of occasions, none more so with the proposal by an American contractor in the late 1960s to put a glass roof on it from Smiths to Scadgells, effectively creating a giant indoor shopping complex. The traders were famously told at the meeting “in 30 years’ time, everyone will shop indoors”.
However prophetic those words turned out to be, its didn’t cut much ice with the locals and the plan was rejected. But, despite that, even in the 1970s the precinct was a hub for the town’s shoppers, with foot traffic to almost rival the old Churchill Square on most Saturday’s between 11am and 3pm.
Tesco going to Durrington followed by Sainsbury’s decamping to Lyons Farm took its toll and it’s fair to say Montague Street has seen better days.
With the demise of BHS, there was the prospect of another large empty unit in the Town Centre, so when Poundworld announced their intention to pen in the old BHS shop, and the subsequent jobs it gave to the local economy, the news was greeted on a par with that of someone setting fire to the Connaught Theatre. Any shop surely has to be better than an empty shop?
Whilst nostalgia is a wonderful thing, the days of which we so fondly look back on are long gone. Perhaps if Tesco or Sainsbury’s had been given the necessary inducements to stay in the town centre things might have been different.
The overriding positive to come out of all of this sorry BHS business is that we’ve ended up with another large retail unit, and the jobs that comes with it.
In the circumstances, why do some still choose to see the whole thing as a negative?
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