This is the second of six articles exploring some of the important issues and strategic choices facing our community over the next 15-20 years. Today’s article focuses on the local economy.
Historically, Haslemere had a dynamic local economy. Recently many businesses have been closed and the sites redeveloped for housing, reducing the number of local jobs. This affects the whole community but is particularly serious for younger people looking to work locally. Without a vibrant, sustainable economy, the town will become a dormitory satellite of Godalming, Farnham, Guildford, and London. Are we content to allow this trend to continue, to leave things to market forces, or should our Neighbourhood Plan include policies designed to attract new and diverse businesses to the town? Policies could:
• protect the current retail base by discouraging change of use
• promote development of modern office space to attract skilled/high tech employment
• foster development of small workshops for craft and manufacturing businesses
• encourage a wider range of shops and ‘high street’ businesses that better meet the needs of the local community and attract more visitors and non-residents.
Should we actively promote the development of local visitor and tourism orientated businesses, capitalising on assets like the Devil’s Punchbowl, Haslemere Museum, Swan Barn, Haslemere events and its status as a public transport Gateway to the South Downs National Park?
Haslemere currently has four separate commercial centres: Old Haslemere, Wey Hill, Hindhead (Crossroads), and Beacon Hill. In recent years, investment has tended to favour Old Haslemere, arguably at the expense of the development of other centres. As shops and other ‘bricks and mortar’ services like banks face growing competition from the internet, will all Haslemere’s centres remain viable? Should we concentrate on the development of one centre that could attract a greater and more diverse range of shops? Can we find a way to create closer integration between Old Haslemere and Wey Hill? What is the future for retail in Hindhead and Beacon Hill?
Tell us what you think about these issues and options by taking part in the community consultations planned for June and September 2014. Meanwhile, look out for our third article in next week’s Herald on here on our website!