THE Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) locally has put its weight behind the Link Road project, claiming, without any back up evidence, that jobs, regeneration and prosperity will not happen without it (Observer, January 13).
Its website tells us that the FSB also shares, with a wider public, concern about the loss of business and shop closures in our town centres.
As Government ‘guru’ Mary Portas recommended in her recent review on ‘the future of our high streets’, town centres had ‘a fight on their hands’ in the face of competition from out-of-town shopping centres, supermarkets and ‘on-line’ retailing. She calls for an ‘explicit presumption’ in favour of town centre development.
Well, by default, and notably without the link road, the fruits of such a presumption in favour of town centres appear to have worked in favour of Hastings and Bexhill in the form of at least 1,400 new jobs in the last 15 months through relocation by Saga in Hastings, and expansion of Hastings Direct in Bexhill. That sounds like a good start in the ‘fight back’ to us.
Regarding prospects for small businesses in the two towns, it is likely that the presence of new employees in the town centres will lead to increased footfall that will in turn lead to a bigger spend in the shops and on services to be found there.
In the case of Saga, accessibility by public transport was explicitly mentioned by them as a reason for its choice of relocation, and evidently, Collington station is quite a busy one in terms of Hastings Direct employees, all good news for the kind of small businesses that the FSB represents.
Even better, those of its members who need small vans to carry out their business, plumbers, joiners, electricians and so on, benefit from the existence of those public transport links which make a real contribution to reducing congestion and C02 emissions from overwhelmingly short car trips.
Those links and a vast improvement in their quality and availability are where investment should be targeted, not in the link road project.
It remains a mystery to us why the FSB supports the link road project at all, since car dependent, road-based out-of-town development is demonstrably, and has been for decades, the enemy of small businesses and in general, strong, resilient local economies.
Campaign for Better Transport, East Sussex