Over recent years, despite Government austerity, low growth nationally and stagnation in wages, many companies in Burgess Hill have managed to achieve growth to the point where expansion is needed. For these companies, the buildings in which they work have become too small and owners are seeking a move to more suitable accommodation. I know of at least six of our members who are in this situation.
Unfortunately, the possibilities in the town are limited. There is now a drastic dearth of commercial property for sale and rent, and so we come to the situation where some companies, including some BHBPA members, are seriously thinking of having to move away in order to expand. I heard yesterday that one of our members is leaving the town, after three years of searching for a place to buy. They, and any others forced to go, will be a great loss to the town.
If you speak to the MDs or owners of these companies it is clear that they do not wish to move away from Burgess Hill, a place which they recognise is ideally suited to their enterprise. They have a loyal workforce, many of whom are local people, a client base upon which they can rely and good transport links, which make this a popular place to do business. However, they are being forced to consider moving away because they need to expand and there are few places around to accommodate that need.
I know that Garry Wall and Sally Blomfield at MSDC are aware of this problem and are making efforts to solve the problem, but it is becoming urgent. The new business parks long promised on the A2300 have still not been built, and yet there is increasing residential encroachment at the western end of Victoria Road, to the point where some of our most successful businesses are now surrounded by housing. The building of those latest residential sites has caused nearby businesses huge problems over the past nine months, and yet they have soldiered on, taken everything thrown at them and are still producing terrific results. The business community is understandably becoming frustrated by the lack of progress on areas for expansion.
Where are the new commercial buildings for SMEs to rent? Why are there so few opportunities for SMEs to buy a property in the Burgess Hill area? Why has one MD with cash to purchase a building been searching for two years for a bigger property and yet can’t find one? Why is there land standing empty and unused when so many businesses are looking to buy a freehold on the business parks? Has too much been invested in residential development and not enough in commercial premises? Surely it is time for our businesses to have the chance to rent or buy a suitable building in order to continue their successful enterprise. In so doing they would not then be forced to look elsewhere for expansion. We need these companies to stay in Burgess Hill – the time has come for landowners and Councils to act, to release some land for sale, or do what is necessary to retain our businesses. Whilst the town centre may be struggling with shop closures as we all wait for the improvements there to begin, the business sector is booming and it deserves more urgent attention from those who hold the purse strings.
If you have a story to tell about your business and especially if you are looking to expand and can’t find suitable premises locally, please write and let me know some details.