I was pleased to welcome Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP to Worcester Park. As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, we didn’t discuss too much related to her main brief apart from her security detail that is required due to the ongoing situation across the Irish Sea. However as a member of the Cabinet and a former Transport Minister, Theresa was an excellent person to bring to meet shop owners in Central Road. She was very willing to listen to their concerns and I know that she will take those views back to the heart of government. Theresa used to be one of our MEPs so knows Sutton and Worcester Park well.
From the government side, we discussed how the cuts in National Insurance and Business Rates Relief for small businesses would help small businesses. The branch manager of Haart told us how his new branch had settled in well since opening with the housing market doing well. He agreed that having trains stop at Worcester Park as part of the proposed Crossrail 2 project would be a boost for house prices in the area.
Representatives of the Worcester Park Traders Forum told us about the good and bad in Central Road. There are clearly differing priorities depending on where shops are located along the stretch with retailers closest to Waitrose benefiting most from shoppers using the free car park. Traders further up the slope didn’t get quite as much passing trade. The recent investment in Worcester Park wasn’t universally celebrated, not that one could guess from the council press releases. The attention was certainly welcomed but some traders believed that consultation consisted of presenting a series of options, none of which were ideal, rather than bringing people in right at the beginning of the process. I’ve said before that I would always trust shopkeepers over politicians to know what a High Street needs and what customers want.