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Did Crawley Council Leader really tell worried business owners ‘we’ll let the court decide’ over rent hikes?

It has become one of the hot topics of the year, the 30% rent increase for businesses on Tilgate Parade. But has an open letter from a councillor revealed more than just a heated debate.

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Take a walk through any part of Crawley where there are shops. How many of them are the same ones that were there just a few years ago?

In-fact if you walk through the town centre then you are almost going on a walk of memory as you pass empty units or one of the too-many-to-count coffee shops.

Parades so far have faired a little better with most retaining their stores but for how much longer?

Rules set out that rents for businesses must be set at a certain percentage of the value of the property, we will gloss over the fact that councils do have options in which they can reduce this as this has been spoken about at length before.

So a 30% rent hike, whilst shocking, is not surprising as prices increase over the years.

Tilgate Parade where rents are to increase by 30%.

But now an open letter by Tilgate Councillor Francis Guidera has potentially revealed just how much tension there really is between the business owners and the council.

In the letter (which you can read here) Mr Guidera talks about a discussion held after a recent Full Council meeting where eight Tilgate Parade business owners were ‘confronted’ by the Council Leader.

According to Mr Guidera’s letter, Council Leader Peter Lamb ‘demanded’ to know why the council should ‘subsidise’ profit making businesses.

Now heated words between disgruntled residents, business owners and opposing councillors are nothing new but according to Mr Guidera the parting words from the Council Leader appear to show that tensions are at breaking point.

“We’ll let the court decide” – these are the final words, according to Mr Guidera, that Peter Lamb used to the Crawley business owners as the conversation/debate/argument (use what you will because it is not clear what it was) came to a conclusion.

The whole country is on a political see-saw with every party taking any opportunity it can to score points from the other so letters like this can be seen to be just that, another point scoring opportunity – BUT – ‘if’ what Mr Guidera saying is right then it does beg the question of whether the council is really understanding the true concerns of the very people it represents.

CN24 approached Mr Lamb for comment but at time of publishing had not received a response.

There are rules, regulations, legislation to follow but there are also opportunities open to councils to make a difference and to help those it works hard to convince it wants to help. So why such defiance?

The see-saw has dropped on one side now, let’s see what comes out to make it tip the other way?

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Cllr Brian Quinn and Crawley Mayor champion Broadfield Barton

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It is a welcome sight seeing stores opening across the town again, and none more so than in Broadfield Barton where the towns Mayor and Cllr Guidera met up with Broadfield Cllr Brian Quinn to champion the area.

Speaking about the visit Mayor Guidera said:

“I was delighted to be hosted today by almost certainly the most well-known councillor in Crawley, Broadfield Cllr Brian Quinn, for a tour of the local small businesses and charity shops at Broadfield Barton. Brian knew everybody (as I expected!) and it was a really enjoyable afternoon spent meeting the people who run the community shops that serve the residents of Broadfield so well.

One older resident stopped us and spoke about how one of the shops had been so helpful during the lockdown, going to great lengths to be able to provide fresh produce that, as we know was running out everywhere back then, so the community had what it needed over the past few, very difficult months. The friendly staff of the Santa Maria cafe, rightly proud of their fabulous Madeiran cooking, were so welcoming and having eaten there many times before I can say if you haven’t been there yet you are missing out!

They have plenty of outdoor seating too! The last place we visited was the newsagents, which is actually a fully stocked convenience store! Again, so welcoming with a great selection, even an American sweets and drinks area! Of course it’s important to mention both the relate charity shop and St Vincent’s do both raise money to serve the local community in their different capacities comma please remember them when you are done eating stuff if you live nearer to them they are very grateful for any support you offer in terms of bric-a-brac donations and clothing.

So, thank you Cllr Quinn, and thank you to all of the people who were so friendly and welcoming today, including the many residents who stopped us for photographs!”

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