Sunday trading ‘death wish’

ONE of Brentwood’s longest-serving independent retailers has criticised the council for he says is a “death wish” attitude to Sunday trade in the Baytree Centre.

Since the council’s decision to close the town’s multi-storey car park in Coptfold Road, Richard Gregory, managing director of Design Therapy Ltd, which trades as ZAKZ designer menswear store, said The Baytree Centre has been losing custom and fears the situation will be devastating for Christmas trade.

Mr Gregory said: “Trade in the Baytree Centre has dropped by 70per-cent on Sundays.

“There seems to be some kind of death wish from the council to move vehicles to the other side of town.

“The only multi-storey car park in a town should not be shut on what is probably the third busiest shopping day in the week. What’s going to happen at Christmas?”

He said drivers were being pushed towards the William Hunter Way and Sainsbury’s car parks on the opposite side of the High Street which, although only a five-minute walk away, he said was “too much effort” for shoppers to venture across to the Baytree Centre if lumbered with shopping bags or supermarket trolleys especially during unpleasant weather.

“If someone wants to shop in Somerfield or Wilkinson they’ve got to push their trolley out through the centre, up an incline, across new cobbles in High Street, and through more shops to get to the car park. Most people would think to hell with that I’ll go to Sainsbury’s,” he said.

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A spokesman for Brentwood Council said the 734-space multi-storey was closed from August 1 “due to low usage and income generated not covering the costs of keeping it open” - an estimated loss of �11,500 per year and suggested drivers use the alternative Chatham Way and Town Hall car parks where there was “ample” free parking on Sundays. Between them they offer 280 spaces - less than half that in Coptfold Road.

Just two weeks ago the council decided to increase Sunday parking enforcement patrols because of a surge in unauthorised parking in the High Street, which Mr Gregory said was “no doubt” one of the resulting effects of the multi-storey car park’s closure.

A total 66 PCNs have been issued in the High Street since then.

He said the closure was made without consultation and “insane” and is challenging the council to re-think their decision.

Leader of the Opposition, Councillor David Kendall, sympathised with the situation and said: “We voted against the measure.

“We felt there hadn’t been enough consultation with retailers. We still feel that way now.

“It seems to be honest what we thought was wrong about it has come true.”

But though he has pushed for a review the situation will remain as it is for six-months which was the time allocated for the trial period.

The spokesman said: “Discretion is given to Officers to allow it to be opened if a high demand for the car park is predicted on specific occasions. A report will be made to a future Panel after six months to feedback on any issues arising from February 2011. Members will decide about Christmas parking at the Highways Panel on November 9.”

A spokesman for DTZ, the managing agent for The Baytree Centre, said: “We are aware there are concerns from some tenants about the council car park being closed on a Sunday. Obviously we would like the car park to be open to reflect the opening hours of the centre but it is a council car park we have no control over.”