Haslemere traders call on Co-op to restore derelict car park

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The car park to the rear of High Street has been closed since 2017

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FRUSTRATED Haslemere traders are calling on the Co-op to honour its own “social responsibility” ethos and restore a derelict car park off the High Street for the use of low-paid shop workers.

The 45-bay car park to the rear of the former Co-op store at 38-40 High Street (now Collingwood Bachelor) was closed in October 2017 as a “short-term” measure ahead of its transformation into a pay-and-display car park, said the Co-op at the time.

This never materialised, and the car park has remained closed to shoppers and workers ever since – with the Co-op so far refusing to offer a reason for its prolonged closure, commenting only that it remains “in active discussions with a car park operator”.

There was hope in 2015, too, when Haslemere and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce was close to an agreement whereby the Co-op would award its then-president Craig McGowan a 20-year lease on the car park, on condition it only be used “for car parking by low-paid traders/employees working in the town”.

This also failed to come to pass. But Mr McGowan, in his second term as chamber president, now hopes to revive his 2015 plans in time for the end of the current lockdown.

In emails to the Co-op’s asset management firm seen by the Herald, Mr McGowan champions the use of car park by local businesses as having the potential to “clear bays in council car parks for more visitors and release the pressure on surrounding residential areas”.

And he also accuses the Co-op of “prevarication”, “misrepresentation”, and “mis-management”, adding the car park’s prolonged closure is causing “unacceptable” economic damage to the town.

Mr McGowan has also threatened “to seek legal opinion”, claiming the site left derelict is a risk to public safety.

The chamber has also gained the support of Waverley Borough Council’s economic development manager Catherine Knight, who has also written to the Co-op seeking a resolution.

She said: “Parking is an issue for all our market towns and to attract employees to the town parking needs to be convenient.

“The proposal by the chamber, to allocate a small number of bays to local employers, would really support Haslemere high street businesses and their recovery.”

The Herald has asked the Co-op for a statement, but is yet to receive a response.

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