Subway pulls the plug on Westgate

Wastegate subway closed

Wastegate subway closed

subway Notice of Store Closure

subway Notice of Store Closure

An example of the nonsense from imbecile leader of Rushmoor:

Successful initiatives such as Westgate and changes in the way people shop are providing new opportunities for the town and contributed greatly to the success of the bid. We are very pleased that this money has been secured for investment in Aldershot town centre.

When you make statements like this, you lose all credibility.

Westgate has been described as many things, but successful initiative is not one of them. It has had dire consequences on the town centre, retailers are suffering, look at the number of boarded-up and closed shops, retailers call it Wastegate.

Even in its own right, Wastegate is not a success. Walk through daytime and note the empty chain eateries. Every ten pound spent in one of these eateries, is ten pound not spent in the town centre, it is ten pound not recycled within the local economy, were it spent with local retailers.

The cinema, when a long awaited cinema opens in Farnborough, so far over a decade late, will see the bums on seats halve.

It was therefore only a matter of time before one of the chain eateries pulled the plug on Wastegate, now called and please do not laugh, Westgate Leisure Park. Subway has closed, all signs removed, a notice on the door advising go to the Subway in the town centre.

For many, with the large number of empty and boarded-up shops in the town centre, poetic justice.

Who will be next? Eventually around half will close, maybe viable for those remaining. If they cannot survive now, with overspill from the cinema, they will not survive when the cinema opens in Farnborough.

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7 Responses to “Subway pulls the plug on Westgate”

  1. Iain Says:

    I have become a regular customer of Morrisons since it opened so I get to see Westgate at various times on various days of the week and can categorically state that it is a success and has not adversely affected the town centre. Aldershot’s issues with closed shops started well before Westgate opened and is mainly due to incompetent or greedy landlords and uncompetitive chain stores failing to sell what is generally overpriced tat.

    Morrisons main competitor is Tesco, but none of the four town centre supermarkets appear to have suffered from the extra competition. In fact two of them have actually extended their opening hours in the past year.

    The cinema may well see a reduction in its audience when the Farnborough one opens, but surely by now there should be quite a number of customers coming from cinema-less Farnham and Fleet to offset that?

    The chain restaurants do not appear to directly compete with of the town centre restaurants and cafes, with the possible exception of Cafe Macchiato, but that seems to be as popular as it has ever been. However, if you only see the restaurants during the day then you will get a false impression of how they doing, because they are at their busiest at weekends and in the evenings from Wednesdays onwards, because most of their customers are busy working at other times!

    Subway is an exception for the following reasons – it is not really a fast-food destination when compared to the likes of MacDonalds and KFC, and the Westgate branch was tucked away in a dead corner which few pass close to by choice, so it was in the wrong location to begin with. I remember they took ages to open it originally compared to the other restaurants, which was perhaps an indication of what their expectations were. Having said that, even the Union Street branch seems to be permanently quiet and I am a little amazed that is still open.

  2. keithpp Says:

    Retailers in the town have been hit by Westgate that is why they call it Wastegate.

    Wastegate was an unwanted development, that by its very existence, was going to hit the town centre, by shifting the retail centre of gravity away from the centre of town.

    A French restaurant was the first to close when Wastegate opened.

    The street market was hit very hard when Wastegate opened. Worst day of trading they had experienced. It has recovered, but not the the level it was.

    The cinema has stated that they expect a substantial drop, when the Farnborough cinema opens.

    The Farnborough cinema has been subsidized by the council. It would not have otherwise opened.

    There is unlikely to be the bums on seats to support both.

    Morrisons is not a success, most of the time near empty. It is not one of their best performing stores. If as may happen, Morrisons axe some of their stores because are not performing well (one of the strongest critics Ken Morrison) Aldershot may go.

    People in Farnham would not be seen dead in Aldershot.

    The Queen Hotel did well when it opened in April, did well for the first week, it has since experienced a steady decline. Of late not even have the range of guest ales, because no demand, they were having to pour down the drain

    Subway was in a corner, but not hidden away, A big enough sign. But clearly not the business else they would not have closed.

    Yes, there is a problem of greedy landlords overcharging on rents, for what is basically a slum location.

    Just Shop, an excellent food shop (that actually brought people into Aldershot), the type of business Aldershot can ill-afford to lose, has closed, driven out of business by a greedy Nepalese landlord.

    Action can be taken on rents. One of the first actions to be taken, is to publish all rents, name and shame the greedy landlords. It also helps in Rent Tribunals, as can do rent comparisons. Such action has been successful in other towns.

    Aldershot is a deprived area. The last thing it needs is what little money there is, drained out of the local economy. That is what the chains do. They drain money out, kill a town, then they close.

  3. keithpp Says:

    £4.5 million to be poured down the drain, no consultation, now £60,000 to be spent on consultants to advise how yet more public money can be poured down the drain trashing Aldershot.

  4. Mr Aldershot Says:

    Keith, I must say your blog is a compelling read, but for all the wrong reasons. You appear to be speaking on behalf of all the businesses in Aldershot Town Centre and base all of your assertions on an obsessive compulsive hatred of Westgate and an incredibly flawed understanding of business operations. Your rants fail to address so many influences to the decline of the town centre.

    Firstly take online shopping. This is on the increase – this is factual, look at any statistics you like. Online is more convenient for people as the shops are “open” 24 hours a day and thus this allows people to shop not only from the comfort of their own homes, but at a time that suits them. This is one of the primary reasons that town centres are in decline. This is not an issue that Aldershot alone faces, it is one that affects many many MANY town centres across the UK. Furthermore it benefits retailers to focus on the online trade. It allows for lower stock hold and a reduction in overheads. At the end of the day whilst it may not be a moral decision, centralising business trough a medium with lower overheads and greater sales is what business is all about. Next for example having loads of small shops across the UK means that they are paying countless managers and staff and have to have a lot more stock to fill shelves across all these stores. Focus online and you cut staff numbers and stockhold – the business is more profitable.

    Your main issue seems to be with the morality of business. There are no morals in business. You cite “greedy landlords wanting more rent”, they are a business – not a charity. They will always push for the maximum they can get based on what the current market value for leases are in that area. It is not in the interest to hike prices to such an extent that retailers move out – else the landlord ends up with zero rent – which is counter productive in a business. I think you will find that increases charged are inline with inflation and rates charged for similar units in the area. Your argument that it is all about greed is flawed – because driving businesses out of shop units is counter productive to the landlords. The truth of the matter is that whilst rent is increased inline with inflation etc, trade is falling and thus profitability is impacted from both sides. Landlords are not charities, they are not obliged to lower rent below market value to help the retailers.

    Then there is the economy which you failed to put enough focus on. People are in hard times, particularly in less affluent areas such as Aldershot. This means there is less spending on luxury or non-essential items – again impacting retailers profitability.

    You are critical of Westgate. However your argument seems to ignore some very crucial points such as:

    1) Westgate is mostly restaurants. Restaurant trade bares no corellation to trade of retailers. They are in two different sectors.

    2) The only retailer in Westgate is Morrisons. The only direct rivals Morrisons have in Aldershot are Tesco, Lidl, Co-op and Iceland – all of whom are still trading just fine.

    3) Westgate has brought a cinema back into Aldershot offering greater leisure facilities in the town which potentially helps bring people into the town, or at very least encourages the locals to stay in town rather than go elsewhere.

    4) Westgate has provided a lot of jobs across all of the units there. For something you call “Wastegate”, you seem to be oblivious to its economic contribution to the town.

    Some other points to consider…

    a) The Galleries was best part empty, if not completely empty BEFORE Westgate opened, thus rendering your argument that Westgate is driving shops out of town ludicrous.

    b) High Street brands have been struggling financially – some such as Blockbusters, Millets, Woolworths, Phones4U declaring bankruptcy, thus their local trade is irrelevant as decisions to close stores as this is a centralised issue with the company as a greater entity.

    There is so much I could say – but I will conclude in saying you need to get off your high horse about one of the towns biggest employers – westgate and focus on the real issues that are affecting businesses in our town.

  5. keithpp Says:

    If you look across the country, look at the data, there is a vast surplus of retail space, that was before the internet had an impact, before austerity kicked in.

    There are shopping centres sitting half empty, shopping centres with planning consent that will never be built.

    The Galleries should never have been built.

    The Council has tried enticing retailers in, they take one look at Aldershot and they walk away. There is neither the footfall on the streets no the money in pockets.

    The Galleries has to be turned into something else, something that is not retail. A bowling alley, for example.

    Or, following the excellent example of TechStart (one of the rare success stories in Aldershot), community owned, community run, not-for-profit, for and on behalf of the community.

    We have privatised everything we can from the commons, physical, intellectual, social. We have reached the end of growth. We are moving towards a sharing economy.

    The sharing, cooperative economy is the fastest growing sector of the economy. It does not get discussed in the mainstream media, does not impact on GDP as no money changes hands. It is happening below the mainstream radar.

    Much of what is on the internet, cannot be monetised, content is provided free, sites make no money, indeed, even the internet is run on open source software.

    Expansion of retail space was predicated on brainwashed morons engaging in endless mindless exponentially growing consumption, a one way linear journey from extraction, production in a Third World sweatshop, six months use (if that), then on to landfill or incineration. It was not sustainable. And apart from the environmental havoc wreaked, has created a skewed less fair society with money being transferred from the poor to the rich.

    There is no growth. Trillions have been pumped into supporting banks, quantitative easing, still no growth.

    The political-media establishment gets out a magnifying glass, looks at statistical noise, and calls it growth.

    Shops that are empty, ridiculously high rents, enter, and you will find in very poor state of repair. Absentee landlords, large property portfolios, no interest in Aldershot, happy to see empty as a tax dodge.

    Failing High Streets chains no great loss. Provides opportunities for entrepreneurial indy busiensses

    Wastegate, apart from being an ugly eyesore, was going to either be a white elephant or relocate the retail centre of gravity away from the town centre. It has proved to be a bit of both.

    Morrisons is struggling, staffing levels have been drastically cut.

    To state employment created is not true, simply a displacement.

    This is like when a large superstore store opens, the claim 1,000 jobs created is simply not true. There is always a net loss of jobs.

    Nor is is it good for the local economy. All chains, they drain money out of the local economy, whereas local businesses recycle money within a local economy. Trickle down of a small amount of money, to part- time minimum-wage staff.

    Local restaurants have been hit. They employ less staff, make less money, have less money to spend in the local economy, are now struggling and wondering is it worth carrying on.

    Local businesses call it Wastegate not I, due to the detrimental impact Wastegate has had on the town. They get sick and tired of the out-of-touch council claiming it to be a success. And why do they make this false claim, because they had a direct financial interest in Wastegate, not because they are acting in the best interests of the town.

    Nor does it pull people in. Why would anyone visit any town for exactly the same shops in their own town?

    Aldershot (and likewise Farnborough), is a sink town, a place others avoid. Suggest to people in Farnham, Godalming, Guildford they visit Aldershot and they will laugh in your face. Locally, those with the means and the time go elsewhere.

    The cinema is basically bums-on-seats, showing mainly dross. When the bums-on-seats cinema opens in Farnborough, showing the same dross, with the same chain restaurants clustered around it, the bums on seats at Aldershot will halve, and there is not enough bums to be shared between the two. Eventually one if not both will fail.

    The rare exception is the West End Centre, a cultural oasis in a cultural desert.

    Aldershot is a deprived area. That is why it is so important to retain and recycle money within the local economy. The one thing Wastegate does not do, it drains money out of the local economy, thus far from benefiting the town, it is a drain on the town.

  6. Mr Aldershot Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree about The West End Centre – a venue I have frequented many times.

    I still don’t agree with your outlook on Westgate. How many people does Westgate collectively employ – across the hotel, supermarket, all the restaurants and the cinema as well as jobs in security and admin based roles? I would hazard a guess that collectively it employs a very large number of people – possibly more than all the Wellington Centre units put together. Economics isn’t just about spending, factors such as employment are also very important. Whilst Aldershot is “poor” when compared to neighbouring towns in Surrey – it would be poorer if there were less jobs.

    Though to pick up on some points you have mentioned… the bums on seats for the cinema – yes there will be a reduction in trade when Farnborough opens, however I am not sure we can say it will halve. People in North Camp are midway between the two – they will not all go to Farnborough. Furthermore Aldershot has satellite suburbs/ areas/ towns around us which would not go to Farnborough. Take Tongham, Ash Vale, Ash, Weybourne, Bagshot Lea, Farnham… Aldershot is the nearest cinema for all of these places. Then there is the proposed development of some of the army land which will increase the size of Aldershot by 50%. I therefore feel you are overstating the impact of Farnborough’s cinema on Aldershot.

    Also you seem to think people in Farnham do not visit Aldershot – I know many people who live in Farnham who happily come to Aldershot as there is still a wider range of shops here than there. Yes some have the snob factor – but I think you will find that many people in Farnham have no issue with Aldershot, and from what I have seen among the many people I know the opening of Westgate has seen them visit more regularly than before.

    I agree that people as a generalisation will not come to Aldershot if they have the same shops in their town, but that is not an issue isolated to Aldershot – the same can be said for anywhere. Though as mentioned before we have a wider choice than Farnham, Tongham, Ash, Ash Vale etc – so the appeal is wider than you suggest.

    You say that local businesses call it Wastegate – but is this not just a case of finding a scapegoat? I would say it is. As I said in my first post – the only businesses Westgate affects is other eateries. The likes of Poppins, Wimpy, Jennys etc. Having a wider array of restaurants in the town bares no direct correlation to the performance of retailers. Morrisons had a minimal impact on Tesco, and Lidl, Iceland and Co-Op are all holding their own – so the impact of Westgate on other retailers is minimal if not non-existent in most cases. That is about as credible as saying the new self store facility by the BVR will impact retailers…. it won’t. People are looking for excuses… but in all your arguments you have yet to convince me that Westgate is detrimental to the local area.

    It was my mother’s birthday last week – so we went out for a meal – to the Toby Carvery in Westgate. The restaurant for a midweek evening was busy, and as we passed others on the way in/ out – they were busy too. In the half term week my dad went out for lunch with a former work colleague – he commented that it was hard to find a restaurant with a spare table… it was that busy. I am struggling to see how you are being so damming of a place that is making money, has added to Aldershot and is employing a lot of people.

    I maintain that the real reason shops are suffering is because of the global economy being in dire straights, and a change in shopping habits by customers who have both been influenced by technology and indeed the economy. I have a few points which I would like to make on the matter:

    1) I accept that there has been a surplus of retail space since before online shopping became a big thing, However I maintain that online shopping is more of a factor now than ever before. Take music sales for example. When I was a kid it was cassettes or cd’s. Now when I want a new album – I download from iTunes. This is why HMV hit hard times, Zavvi, Foop, Our Price etc all went under. Buying habits changed. When you need a new fridge or a cooker – you used to go to Currys or Comet. Now due to high resolution pictures, faster connections, and a shift towards selling online (as it reduces stock hold & staff number and thus overheads) businesses are preferring to sell this way. Internet shopping is not new, however it has diversified and become a formidable force against the high street shops. It is stronger now than ever before – statistics back this. Ebay is a good example – once a platform for selling 2nd hand goods – now has thousands of ebay shops – big retailers selling through there. We just purchased an oven and hob that way rather than going to the shops to choose and buy.

    2) Another factor to consider is generations. An older generation didn’t use computers like the younger generation do now. The fact is that the way people are bought up and the technology around them influences their behaviour when shopping online etc. The older generation…well putting it bluntly are dying, and with them goes service based retail etc. My parents who are both in their 60’s have only in the last few years got used to computer based living. But the point is as more kids become adults in a technology driven age traditional practices and values will be lost.

    3) Costs of running a high street store are increasing. There is greater pressure on businesses to trade ethically. This can be from the minimum wage in the UK or sourcing fair trade or ensuring items are not made in sweatshops etc. All this costs money. Add to this electricity and other service providers – all of whom are charging more, the cost of running fleets of vehicles with petrol prices soaring so high, having lots of staff for each shop, training, uniforms, shop refits etc – it all costs money. This has nothing to do with local economies – this is national economy and a reflection of how costs have risen all round. On the other hand look at a model for online sales – you have one central warehouse which distribute to the whole of the UK through a partnership with a delivery firm such as UPS. This means your company no longer needs vehicles – as there is no need for lorries to deliver to store etc. In not being in the public eye there is no need to worry about staff appearance and uniforms, saving thousands each year. Instead of paying to heat and light numerous stores – you have just one warehouse. Instead of having loads of staff at all the different shops you have one smaller team who deal with everything centrally… business is about making money… the high street isn’t the best medium to do this through…. its immoral i know – but a business exists to be profitable.

    4) Sad but true – online stores can base themselves in Luxembourg or Switzerland where they can reap the benefits of lower taxes and thus be more profitable. Many companies do this – an advantage of web trading.

    5) Very simply there is less money around… this isn’t just Aldershot, people all over the country are feeling the pinch and as such do not have the funds to spend on luxury goods. Again this is about buying habits. There is a reason Lidl and Aldi etc are doing so well – whilst Morrisons and Tescos etc see a reduction in custom – people are looking at how they spend their money and do so more carefully than in prosperous times. This also affects other stores – clothes, shoes, homeware – people are doing without or spending less because there is less money.

    The fact is that you (or as you claim other retailers) are blaming Westgate but to me it seems as though the project is being used as a scapegoat when the real problem is simply a mash up between national and or global economy with a change in the way businesses and customers operate. The argument you make against Westgate seems to omit all of these points, and not to mention the point that the complex employs a lot of people. I simply cannot see how your claim that there is a net loss of jobs when a complex opens exists. The site replaced wasteland, 2 doctors surgeries and a car park. The doctors re-located – so no loss of jobs there and the wasteland and car park were not employers. Since opening no supermarket has shut down in the area nor have redundancies had to be made. To the best of my knowledge only one restaurant closed – the french place – since the opening of Westgate though it should be noted that Woody’s – another eatery replaced it meaning that job losses vs employment in the new store have evened out. I cannot logically see how Westgate has caused greater job loss than it has created in employment. The figures for your argument in this matter do not add up.

    The point that restaurants have been hit – I use Jenny’s a lot – not seen a great deal of difference in numbers in there. McDonalds and the other fast food places seem to be doing about the same on trade. AM’s is still always busy…. yes there may have been an impact to some, Poppins for example, but overall I still believe that Westgate has created more jobs than it has cut and thus brings more to a local economy. And again without labouring the point less people go to town centres now anyhow so footfall will decline as a result – this has nothing to do with Westgate,

    I agree that the Galleries should be turned into something else – bowling, lazer quest, some sort of leisure activity, even a 24 hour gym could work. Though the reason I believe these changes are needed is not because of Westgate but because of the way that towns are needing to change all across the country.

    Other issues that should be considered as detrimental to Aldershot are:

    1) BUSES – Stagecoach are overpriced meaning that the only people who use the bus are those with free travel. Unregulated sectors such as this influence whether people use the bus. Then you need to factor in the fact that the services do not cater for local people. For example to get to Church Crookham or Fleet there is one bus an hour – people aren’t willing to use services with low frequency. The 4/5 and 15 which cater for the residential areas of Aldershot do not stop at key places such as The Border Practice, Aldershot Centre for Health, Tesco and Westgate. The routes have not evolved with the expansion of thee town. Many areas of Aldershot and the surrounding areas are not linked by bus. There is no incentive to use public transport locally which impacts people coming to the town.

    2) LOCAL DEMOGRAPHIC – I am going to sit on the fence on this one, however the Nepalese population in the town will impact the town centre – its a different culture, a different approach to shopping etc. Also there is the friction between locals and the Nepalese community as some say the area has become over populated with the Neps. Like I said – I will sit on the fence for this one, as personally I don’t have a problem with them, though I acknowledge that many do.

    3) TOWN LAYOUT – Very simply the layout is part of the cause of the towns dire state. Our town centre was too spread out from the High Street, Wellington Street, Union Street, the shopping centres, Tesco and now Westgate. The key would be to develop Welllington & Union Street – and ideally look to secure a big retailer for the top end of Union Street – such as Primark – which would suit the local demographic well and pull people up to the top end of town, but also providing a link with Westgate.

    4) THE LOCAL COUNCIL – as with many local authorities, representation in the area is poor at best. The local councilors we have are generally poor. Peter Crerar is a good egg, but the likes of The Dibbles, Choudary’s, Frank Rust, Mike Roberts among many are poor – and do little for the area except when its election time. We need a proactive council – we don’t have that. They have no balls when it comes to confronting the owners of empty units etc.

    5) SPENDING – money is being spent in the wrong areas – the roads in my area have just had a new surface put on them which is supposed to be more resilient etc… the fact of the matter is our road gets such light use that there is simply no need to resurface – wasted money. Traffic calming on Church Lane West was a waste of money. The proposals for Grosvenor Road – waste of money. Money needs to be better spent by the council – this is money that they have – they are investing poorly.

    I could go on… I think we need to agree to disagree but it has been a good debate all the same.

  7. keithpp Says:

    Spend ten pounds in a local restaurant and it gets recycled within the local economy. Spend ten pounds in a Wastegate chain eatery and it gets sucked straight out of the local economy.

    Aldershot is a deprived area. It cannot withstand this haemorrhaging of money out of the local economy. It needs to trap and intercept every penny and recycle within the local economy.

    Think of it as a drought prone area, harvesting and recycling every last drop of water.

    The only money from Wastegate which would leak back into the local economy is the minimum wage employees are paid, which is negligible.

    The jobs, are displacement jobs, if eating at Wastegate, not eating elsewhere.

    It is a zero sum game.

    To claim Wastegate is employing more people than the grotty shopping centre is ludicrous.

    I walked through the grotty shopping centre today, a rare visit, as I do not like the place, and only the top floor, many more people employed than Wastegate

    The Wastegate cinema has admitted, open a cinema in Farnborough and bums on seats halve. They have also said they do not believe the locality can sustain two multiplex cinemas. Their view not mine, but I would not disagree.

    Bums on seat at cinemas peaked over a decade ago. We have DVD, widescreen TVs, streaming.

    Toby Carvery on the way out of Frimley is excellent. That in Wastegate awful.

    Mimosa I walked in, took one look at the food, walked out. And on the way out, got a torrent of verbal abuse by the owner or manger because I did not stay.

    I have never seen the chain eateries in Wastegate busy. Whenever I have walked by they are near empty. And they will be even less busy when the self-same chain eateries open in Farnborough.

    But then I could say the same about the rest of Aldershot. Jenny’s is always empty. The Queen Hotel is not busy. The only place I ever see busy is McDonald’s, which says a lot for Aldershot.

    There is nowhere decent to eat in Aldershot. Junk food outlets and chain eateries.

    The one exception is Caffe Macchiato, the food is freshly prepared, not hotted up white-van chiller rubbish. Art on the walls, nice atmosphere, free wifi, pleasant staff. They take a pride, not only in their food but also the building. If every building looked like their building, what a difference Aldershot would be. They even have occasional live music in the evening. Dates not yet fixed, talented singer-songwriter Jewelia either end of November or early December, a cabaret, dinner followed by live music.

    Retailers report a fall in takings, which they blame on Wastegate. If people are at Wastegate, then they are not in the town.

    I spoke yesterday evening with a local businesses: What impact Wastegate good or bad? Bad, they are seeing a drop in trade, effectively two halves of the town, those who go to Wastegate, do not enter the town. They also confirmed what I have noticed, the chain eateries are not busy. They do not believe the chain eateries to be viable due to high rents. Morrisons is not busy. Staff at Morrisons also tell me the chain eateries not busy. Whether or not the cinema is busy, I cannot say.

    When Morrisons opened two years ago, a little experiment was carried out at the top end of town. Was there an increase in the number of people walking down into the town, was there people walking down with Morrions bags in their hands? This in the retail trade is called leakage. There was no noticeable increase, no leakage from Morrisons.

    This was not surprising. Shoppers do a trolley shop in Morrisons, drive in, empty the contents of trolley into car boot, drive home.

    The only leakage there may be, is people taking advantage of free parking at Morrisons (if they can get away with it).

    When Sainsbury’s had a supermarket in Kingsmead in Farnborough, people did a basket shop, they wandered around the town. The new Sainsbury’s, people do a trolley shop, the store is orientated to face out of the town not into the town to minimise leakage. Net result is exactly as I predicted would happen, the retailers in Kingsmead one by one pulled out. Last time I wandered through, it was a like a film set for a post apocalypse movie with a handful of zombies wandering through, The Galleries Mark II.

    And what makes it worse, no one is learning from their bad mistakes, bad planning decisions, it is more of the same failed planning policies.

    Subway, which has closed, the rent for this unit is an extortionate £39,000 per annum, plus on top service charges, plus business rates. That is even before staffing costs, heating and lighting costs. That is an awful lot of sandwiches to sell. No surprise they closed. Scale that up to the chain eateries, which are most of the time are near empty, and question their long term viability.

    Walking through the town yesterday evening, nowhere was busy, not even McDonald’s.

    The Galleries should never have been built. It simply spreads out the retail space.

    Alternative use has to be found for The Galleries, could be used for small start ups, social enterprises like TechStart.

    The same problem can be seen in Farnborough, more retail space built, simply spreads it out over a greater area, more empty retail units.

    HMV went under because it was a crap record store. And good riddance, it gave an opportunity to indy record shops.

    Same goes for Comet. A crap store that will not be missed. They put out of businesses all the little electrical shops on price. Then along came Amazon, and they could not compete on price. Comet though had an additional problem, it was raped by vulture capitalists.

    Indy record shops are thriving, run by people who know and love music. Try Ben’s Records in Guildford, or Resident in North Laine in Brighton.

    Visit North Laine in Brighton and see what quality is. Not a chain store in sight, quirky indy shops, bookshops, fashion shops, restaurants, coffee bars, food shops, music shops. And it is busy.

    iTunes is not the place for music, neither is Amazon, even less spotify. Few seconds lofi samples, lofi streaming, artists get a pittance. Bandcamp is the place for music, play entire album on-line as often as you like, can share, indeed it encourages sharing, easy downloads, high quality audio, artists get a good deal, bandcamp only taking a small cut.

    Older generation use computers. I have seen two-year old’s using iPads, 90-year-old’s using laptops, tablets, using the internet to communicate with friends and family.

    One of the most net savvy people around is Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, he is in his mid-60s.

    Costs of store-based retail is going up, due to greedy landlords charging extortionate rents, rents that are unrealistic and do not reflect prevailing market conditions.

    Most on-line businesses are a disaster. Amazon is an exception. People use Amazon, not necessary because it is cheap, but because the service is good.

    Amazon keeps its prices low, because it is bad employer, screws its suppliers, and dodges tax.

    Starbucks is a tax-dodger, disgusting coffee, bad employer.

    The Local Council I would agree is an unmitigated disaster, it is not called the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor for nothing. Councillors who are as thick as two short planks, who do not act for the local community. Decades of bad planning decisions have trashed both Aldershot and Farnborough. They are clueless as to what constitutes good town panning.

    The latest, and if you are not aware, is to pour £4.5 million down the drain in Aldershot, building on the ‘success’ of Farnborough. What success, most reasonable people would ask? Local businesses are strongly opposed. It will do nothing for Aldershot, and as many businesses are close to the edge, it is not going to do much to push them over the edge. And if you was not aware few are, thanks to the lack of consultation.

    And to add insult to injury, the Council has engaged consultants (more public money wasted) to draw up plans for Aldershot and Farnborough. Consultants with an appalling track record. They drew up the widely discredited Local Plan for Guildford. The obvious, talk to local people, draw a consensus, is lost on this bunch of imbeciles.

    There are things that can be done that would make an immediate improvement.

    – ban vehicles from pedestrianised streets
    – pedestrianise mid-section of Victoria Road
    – pedestrian crossing Upper Union Street to Union Street
    – open up The Arcade
    – encourage and support small businesses, social enterprises
    – use Dispersal Orders to remove Nepalese from the streets

    I do not have a problem with the trains and buses pe se, we are well served, I have no problems with the routes.

    I agree, if you buy a single or a day return, the buses are expansive, less so if you buy a day rider, or the day rider gold, a ticket that lets you go into Surrey and Sussex, very good value at £8.

    Where I do have a complaint is the lack of reliability of the bus service, long waits at bus stops, buses late or failing to turn up.

    The train service to Guildford is a disgrace, clapped-out Third World cattle trucks.

    If we compare public transport with Europe, poor service, badly integrated and very expensive.

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