Gutted shops branded ‘eyesores’ after devastating blaze in town

Empty and fire damaged shops

Empty and fire damaged shops

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BURNT-OUT empty shops opposite Eastbourne Railway Station are an ‘eyesore’ for people arriving in the town, according to local shopkeepers.

The stretch of Terminus Road between Gildredge Road and Grove Road has six empty shops and there have been three fires there within the past year.

The first fire happened in the flat above Harrison’s sandwich shop in April, causing the closure of the popular business.

The second blaze broke out in June and affected Britanicus jewellery shop which has also closed.

And most recently, The Lounge Bar was gutted as flames ripped through the disused premises on August 17.

In addition, three other shops are empty including what used to be The Lighthouse and Threshers.

Sue Howe, manager at Banardos, one of few remaining businesses in that stretch of Terminus Road, said, “It is an eyesore along here and it is not nice being in the middle. People arrive on the train and this is what they see.

“The lighting shop closed a couple of months ago so we don’t have any neighbours now.

“When we opened nine-and-a-half years ago it was all thriving along here and completely different to what it is like now.

“When the post office closed that was a major thing because that used to bring people up here. More recently, we have had the roadworks here for the last eight weeks – there is a great big hole outside the shop at the moment.

“It just seems all these things are building up.”

Staff at Meads Village Butchers’ pie and sausage shop said business was thriving but the number of people walking passed the shop had reduced.

Jo Twilley from the butchers said, “People don’t come up here as much because they think everything is closed.

“We could be doing even better if more people were walking past.”

Sarah Flude and Jill Mercer, who both work at the Banana Tree, said they didn’t feel business at the gift shop had been dramatically affected but they also thought the empty shops did not create a good impression for people arriving in Eastbourne town centre.

Sarah said, “They come out of the train station and they see the burnt out buildings and roadworks and think welcome to Eastbourne.”

And Jill added, “It is such as shame they are all along this stretch. I think something should be done but I have no idea what. I’m not sure what the council can do.

“There are some lovely shops in this area so it is such a shame.”

A council spokesperson said, “The council is working extremely hard to quickly return these empty shops to full use.

“The council’s economic development team is currently working with a number of prospective retailers who have shown strong interest in locating their businesses in this part of the town centre.

“More generally, Eastbourne town centre is generating a high volume of interest from those searching for suitable premises.

“This trend has been boosted by the recent proposals announced by Legal & General to redevelop the Arndale Shopping Centre and the robust supporting policies contained within the council’s Town Centre Area Action Plan.”