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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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Crawley businesses warned over burglaries during Covid-19 pandemic

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Local businesses are being urged to ensure their premises are sufficiently protected during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sussex Police believe there could be an increase in organised acquisitive crime across the county – including burglaries of business premises – and have increased police patrols and proactive targeting of known local criminals.

Two men, charged with stealing £80,000 worth of stock from Currys PC World in Hove, were arrested after a fast-moving intelligence-led operation saw them arrested after a black Audi A4 was stopped by officers on the M23 on March 17. They’ve been remanded in custody to re-appear in court on April. 

Officers are also advising residents to make sure that their valuables are secure, especially as warmer weather may well result in opportunistic crooks taking advantage of properties left insecure.

Last month, a Hailsham man pleaded guilty to burglary in the town and will appear for sentencing on April 14. 

Detective Chief Inspector Alasdair Henry, burglary prevention lead for Sussex Police, said:

“We take burglary very seriously. Staff across the force are working hard to prevent an increase in burglary and we are ready to respond to any spikes in such criminality.

“We are urging business owners to ensure that they have sufficient and robust security features in place and that they are in full working order. Security cameras should be checked and owners need to make sure that any service doors are both secure and locked. Don’t store cash in premises whilst they are closed.

“Owners of high value jewellery are encouraged to ensure it is securely locked away in the house, ideally in a safe or similar secure storage, rather than being left in drawers or cupboards. Residents should ensure that doors to their homes are kept locked, especially overnight, but also when they might be out enjoying their gardens, and that they have measures in place to keep their residence secure.

“It is vital that we all work together to disrupt organised crime and prevent opportunistic burglaries. Our Sussex Police website provides some excellent detailed advice on how to protect your property from crime.

“Please do not hesitate to report suspicious activity to us. This includes reporting people trying to sell items that you suspect are stolen. If you have any information concerning burglary or people selling stolen goods please get in touch with us immediately online or by calling 101. You can also report anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

“In an emergency, such as a crime in progress, please dial 999.”

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner said:

“It is important to remember at this time that, whilst our police officers are having to provide support to protect the capacity of the NHS, they are still committed to protecting our communities because criminals are not staying at home.

“As many businesses have been forced to close due to the ‘lockdown’, the vacant premises are more vulnerable to being targeted by criminals seeking to make a profit from this pandemic. So, I’m urging business owners to heed the preventative advice that Sussex Police have released today and take simple measures to better protect themselves and their livelihood.

“The police are still there for us when we need them most, so if you see something suspicious or have been a victim of any crime type, please still report.”

You can find crime prevention advice for protecting your business from the inside out and keeping high value items safe at home on the Sussex Police website.

Sussex Police’s Community Message service, In the Know, will keep you posted on latest news in your police district.

Communities can work together to prevent crime. By joining an existing Neighbourhood Watch scheme or becoming a Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, your community can be stronger together.

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