Villagers raise fear that Stubbington’s future is doomed

Stubbington Green in Stubbington

Picture: Sarah Standing (160465-5722)
Stubbington Green in Stubbington Picture: Sarah Standing (160465-5722)

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CONCERNS have been raised about the future of a once-thriving village centre as yet another unit is being eyed up by a fast-food company.

Residents spoke about their fears at a meeting of the Hill Head Residents’ Association, and now they are calling for action to be taken by Fareham Borough Council to protect their shops.

Bill Hutchison, from the association, said: ‘There is a good deal of concern that Stubbington village shops are under threat.

‘The current concern is that the council is considering an application for the old Status shop. The company applying scouts for suitable premises for fast food outlets in the hope of securing planning permission.

‘We understand the shop is up for rental at £28,000 a year plus business rates estimated at £10,000 a year.

‘We think that only modern catering establishments can cope with those costs and we’d like to keep a range of services in Stubbington.’

These latest fears follow Domino’s moving into the village in the summer 2013, much to some residents’ dismay, and Costa opening in June 2014.

Currently, there are 18 independent shops and nine chains in the village.

The residents’ association’s motion was backed by Stubbington ward councillor Chris Wood, who also represents Crofton on Hampshire County Council.

He said: ‘Domino’s was not wanted as it is unhealthy fast food, causes littering and increases car parking.

‘Another fast-food outlet will increase these negative aspects again.

‘If another fast-food outlet comes in, it would compete with independent businesses, like the bakery and kebab house.

‘This would put them at risk. If big national chains are to continue opening, then Stubbington would cease to be a proper village centre and would just be like any other high street.’

Status, a carpet retailer, closed in November last year, as did the shop next door, Homeflair, a family-run hardware, homewares and DIY specialist shop.

NatWest closed in February last year and the last bank in Stubbington, Barclays has announced it will shut on May 20, despite calls from MP Caroline Dinenage for it to reconsider.

Ms Dinenage said: ‘Stubbington has always been a great example of a thriving village centre with a vibrant mix of both national chains and independent retailers, with very few empty units.

‘I entirely understand constituents’ concerns about the possibility of another fast food chain setting up shop.

‘While it is good news that businesses want to invest in our village and create jobs, it’s important to protect the special character that makes Stubbington such a popular place for shoppers.’

These latest fears about Stubbington also follow calls for Fareham Borough Council to do something to protect Portchester Precinct. Nearly 200 residents signed a petition saying they fear the shops there are also struggling.

A change of use application for Status has been submitted. To view the details search P/16/0128/CU at fareham.gov.uk. Sixteen comments have been made and it will be decided by April 1.

WHAT TRADERS THINK

HIGHER rent rates could see independent retailers forced out of a village high street.

That is the view of traders in Stubbington who said national chain companies can afford the rates whereas independent firms cannot.

Katie Ackroyd, manager of Village Pets, said: ‘The landlords could put rent up seeing as the big companies can afford to pay it. We could get pushed out and they could bring in bigger companies.

‘We have quite a specialist stock so the chain stores don’t really affect us but it would be nice to see more independent, quirky shops.’

Another business owner, who did not want to be named, added: ‘I think we still have a good balance at the moment but any more national chains and we will lose our character.

‘I would prefer it not to be a fast-food chain because they do cause issues like littering. We need to work hard to keep the village feeling that we have.’