Firms facing eviction complain about lack of council support

BUSINESSES facing eviction due to a housing development are angry a city council has not provided them more support.

Monday, 29th October 2018, 7:50 pm
Updated Monday, 29th October 2018, 9:00 pm
Representatives of some of the 55 businesses in Bury Farm in Curbridge, facing eviction to make way for the 3,500 home North Whiteley Development. They feel they have not had enough support from the LEP and Winchester City Council.

More than 55 companies in Bury Farm will have to find a new home in the coming months after detailed planning for the North Whiteley development of 3,500 homes was granted.

The outline plans were approved in 2015 and the businesses were promised money and support by Winchester City Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership to help them move to make way for around 100 homes which will be built on the six-acre site.

But three years later and the firms say they have not had enough help or any money.

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Some of the 55 businesses in Bury Farm in Curbridge, facing eviction to make way for the 3,500 home North Whiteley Development. They feel they have not had enough support from the LEP and Winchester City Council.

Mechanic Ian Tufts said: '˜We have not had enough support from the council and we feel that we have not been kept informed.

'˜We knew the basis of what was happening but last week we got letters saying the site had been sold and then a few days later we got eviction notices.'

The industrial estate received a visit from the city council Hampshire County Council, developer Crest Nicholson and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) back in 2015.

Business advisor Liza Smith was jointly funded by the city council and developers to understand the businesses different needs and work to find them alternative premises.

Ian said: '˜That was a PR exercise as they said there would be premises elsewhere but my customer base won't drive miles for an MOT and none of the council owned yards around here allow car trade so it was not really help.

'˜In terms of the LEP helping us, we hadn't even heard of them until a few days ago.'

Dean Mayze from Bike Doctor said: '˜I paid £14,000 to get an MOT bay installed and upgrade to B2 planning which was all through the council and now that money is now completely wasted because we have to move. It is all completely ridiculous.' 

The business owners also told The News that a meeting about Bury Farm has been organised for this evening at the Solent Hotel.

Peter Brackstone from BMS said: '˜We didn't even know about this meeting until a few days ago and they didn't invite us. How on earth can you have a meeting about the problems facing our estate and not invite the people who actually work here.'

Daryl Grant from Wessex Demolition said: '˜We just feel everything has happened extremely quickly with no thought to the businesses that are here. A lot of businesses are going to have to close because they can't afford to move and its all for the sake of a hundred homes.

'˜Luckily we are a bigger company but finding a big enough site to fit all our vehicles on and have the right permissions to do what we do is going to be very difficult.'

A spokesman for the council said: '˜Winchester City Council has been working closely with the businesses at Bury Farm, located within the North Whiteley development area, since it was confirmed as a suitable area for residential development in 2013. 

'˜In the lead up to outline planning in 2015, the council advised the businesses of the potential impact of the development if approved.  In 2016, the council and Crest Nicholson, part of the consortium of developers, jointly funded a business advisor to provide relocation support to the individual businesses and last year we offered them the support of Enterprise First and Solent Growth Hub. 

'˜While we are very supportive of our local businesses and sympathetic to the concerns of those based at Bury Farm, providing affordable housing is a key priority for the development of the district as identified within the 2013 Local Plan.

'˜Currently, we are continuing to gather information on property in the district, including council-owned premises, which could potentially house businesses.

'˜The council and Crest Nicholson are meeting later this week to discuss how they can work jointly to support the businesses going forward.'

It comes as 14 businesses are facing eviction at an industrial estate in Newgate Lane to make way for a new Lidl store.

One of the firm owners from the site, Kevin Arrowsmith has been fighting the planning and took Fareham Borough Council to High Court over the decision which was thrown out by the judge.

He said: '˜'I knew that our estate eviction case was not a one off in this area, so when I discovered another one, I contacted the businesses and arranged a meeting to put a plan of action in place to assist them.

'˜I hope jointly with other businesses evictions the government will now take action in this growing epidemic of business evictions across the area and nationally.'

The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership told The News that they have asked the developers for an update on the situation.

A Solent LEP spokesman said: '˜As a strong supporter of SME businesses, the Solent LEP is keen to understand the nature of the engagement with SMEs by the developers and we have today written to the North Whiteley consortium to seek an urgent update in relation to this matter.

'˜Alongside this, and as part of our business support offer, the Solent LEP Growth Hub team have previously visited businesses at the site, together with staff from Winchester City Council, to offer support.

'˜We remain committed to build on this engagement and are keen to hear from any business that would like to access this.

'˜A dedicated point of contact at our Growth Hub team has been established for any business impacted and we will be working with other local partners, including colleagues at Winchester City Council, in order ensure all SMEs remain aware of the support available to them.'