Small businesses and residents vent their anger after The Beacon redevelopment causes chaos in Eastbourne

In 2014 an £85 million plan to transform the formerly known Eastbourne Arndale Centre was approved. The development contained an extension to the original building adding a further 170,000 sq. ft, twenty-two new shops, seven new restaurants and an eight-screen multiplex cinema.

This was a new and optimistic business proposition for Eastbourne, with its outcome to transform and develop the high-street significantly. Allowing the centre to compete with those situated in Brighton.

But the Arndale centre was not only to be expanded. Plans were also approved to update the roads surrounding the extension, allowing the city to be more pedestrian friendly, reducing the road to just one single lane. Only buses could travel through the route to significantly reduce the traffic flow.

Throughout the course of the roadworks they have been an inconvenience to both business owners whose shops are situated on the surrounding roads as well as the Eastbourne residents.

Sue Mills, owner of Millies, decided to open a store in the town centre of Eastbourne following the success she was experiencing with her two other stores in Hailsham and Seaford. Doors were open to trading in November 2014.

When asked why she opened her store in the town centre, she said: “I found the shop in Terminus Road opposite the station, one of the reasons why I chose that position was because of the upcoming development of the Arndale centre and that strongly influenced my decision to move there.

“I knew that it wasn’t going to come for a few years so I felt like I could sit it out and build the business up to a point so that when the development was ready to open, we’d be in a strong position.”

However, due to the troubles she faced throughout the Beacon’s development process Sue, made the choice to close her independent clothing store early January 2019 due to the inconvenience the development caused on her business. The roadworks made it impossible to run a successful business.

When being asked about the roadworks surrounding her store she stated : “The roadworks started, and they were dire, and all the wording from the council was that this won’t affect your business, well I couldn’t physically get my stock in or out, due to the stores underground space it was the stockroom for each of my other two stores, so with the roadworks we couldn’t physically get the stock in or it would take hours upon hours.

“I had shouting and screaming matches with all of the workman, but it was impossible, and nobody would listen, the council didn’t wanna know.

“At one point I didn’t even have a pavement, and it wasn’t even a question about not being able to get the stock in, we couldn’t even walk into our own shop- so it was an easy decision to make not to renew the lease.

“It’s hugely impacted the reason why I closed the shop, in-fact it is the reason why”

Not only did the roadworks impact the business as a whole it also impacted her physically and mentally, as an independent business owner she relied on the shop as her form of income and the roadworks were causing havoc for her business.

Sue said: “We are talking about someone’s livelihood here; I’ve invested tens of thousands of pounds in the business, due to the business declining in Eastbourne following the roadworks it also impacted the two other stores as the cashflow was limited- so I took the decision to not renew the lease on the store.

“Financially it was very stressful, and you could call it life altering.”

Not only have these roadworks impacted the owner of Millies, the independent clothing brand shop, it has also had a detrimental impact on the residents of Eastbourne. They have had to deal with the roadworks within the town centre for months and have caused delays for many individuals.

Not only have they turned the city centre into an eye sore, the pavements have been narrowed to allow enough room for the roadworks to be completed, resulting in them becoming extremely overcrowded, and there is constant noise pollution.

Valerie Atkinson, resident of Eastbourne said “The roadworks have been continuing for months now and it feels like they are never ending, whenever you think that something has been completed its only halfway done.

“It has been an inconvenience for us locals and eight months waiting for some roadworks to finish to re-modernise the town centre is an extremely long time and I’m sure I can say on behalf of us locals in Eastbourne that we can wait for them to be finished.”

The roadworks started on the 22nd October 2018 and are estimated to be finished in eight months’ time within July 2019.

To see the future outcome of the Eastbourne Town Centre, see the video below.

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