Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Help safeguard the future of Whitstable Harbour Village

Whether you are a native, a resident, or regular visitor to Whitstable you will almost certainly know about the vibrant community of fisherman’s huts on the South Quay which is home to the thirty-three artists, artisans and local independent retailers that make up Whitstable Harbour Village.
You might also be surprised to learn that our recent requests to obtain a new lease from Canterbury City Council have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, it has been made quite clear to us that the Council will not include the Harbour Village in the longer term plans for the harbour. Instead, they insist on the right to evict all the traders and the huts given 12 month’s notice at the end of any season (a break clause) and prefer to focus on what they call their "master-plan", whatever that may be.
In short, the hard working traders, many of whom depend on the Village for their family’s livelihood will only be tolerated until a big corporate development opportunity comes along. Having helped improve the harbour and create a viable visitor destination over six years they can then just get lost, so someone else can reap the rewards. Sadly, many local people would be forced onto benefits.
And if that doesn’t sound very fair or sensible, it gets even worse….
This break clause (or “kick out" clause) also means that it is impossible for us to progress a funding opportunity with the Coastal Communities Fund to create a young entrepreneurs hub in the harbour village. We have already achieved Stage 1 approval for an £86,000 grant to create 10 new businesses for local youngsters with a business adviser to help them but the Council won’t back it.
And if that sounds plain daft, what about this?
There are now more than 20 new local independent businesses renting premises and employing people across Kent who started or developed their business at the Harbour Village. In tough economic times, the Village produces tangible economic development (ie jobs) for Whitstable and Kent. Just look at the number of Harbour Village businesses who went on to set up successful local shops in Harbour Street, High Street and Oxford Street helping to make Whitstable such a successful, quirky and independent shopping destination
You would think that the Council might be bending over backwards to encourage and embrace this local initiative which has become such a successful tool for economic development and not looking for the first opportunity to send it packing. And don’t forget, we pay our fair share in rent and business rates too.
Instead, we estimate that by not offering basic security to these local businesses and squandering the fantastic opportunity to create 10 new young people's businesses, Canterbury City Council are jeopardising more than 50 full and part time jobs in Whitstable in the midst of a difficult recession.
Now that's a very strange definition of economic development.
Please help us to persuade Canterbury City Council and Whitstable Harbour Board to see sense and commit to making the Harbour Village central to the plans for the harbour with a normal 10 year lease; not tolerated like a bad smell in the hope something better may crop up later. Please email or contact your local Councillor with your thoughts, sign our petition in the harbour at week-ends or just visit our Facebook page and Like. Best of all, please attend the next Harbour Board meeting on Friday 20th September at 3pm at Whitstable Castle and make your views known.
The Village would not have started or prospered without genuine community support and we humbly request it again now to secure our future and the future of local independent business in Whitstable. Thank you


Anonymous said...

The strategy is and was to have harbour related activities on the quayside .
The Village is in no way harbour related, is an extension to Whitstable High St and was advised from day one that they are fillers during the recession.

Same re the Harbour Garden Cafe, with the added factor of its very unwelcome domineering attitude.

To be positive, I suggest you apply to move the Village next to the Harbour Office and ask for a long lease there. Then I for one would support you.

Stuart Heaver said...

I totally agree that Harbour related (i.e. marine) activities would be ideal for the quayside but we have been waiting six years for them and where are they? Even if they are out there there hiding somewhere, there is plenty of room for them too. In their absence what is better- a community of local businesses contributing to the town or Kentucky Fried Chicken for I fear that is the realistic choice we have.