Herald Opinion: Shops in Eastbourne could do with all the help they can get

Eastbourne Borough Council seems to be enjoying the festive season so much this year that staff are planning on keeping the Christmas lights up until February.

How much this boosts the town’s retail sector during those cold, gloomy months at the beginning of the year remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that many shops in Eastbourne could do with all the help they can get. With the economic forecast still looking bleak, stores needed a big pre-Christmas splurge to keep those tills ringing. Unfortunately, the run-up to Christmas coincided with one of the worst winters on record - indeed Eastbourne had the deepest snowfall for more than 50 years. This put a serious dent in stores’ income, with some shops reporting a dip in trade of 80 per cent on last year’s sales figures. And shops at the Crumbles Retail Park were also hit by a massive blaze which gutted Boots and forced nearby retailers to throw out millions of pounds worth of smoke-damaged stock. However, it’s not just better weather and festive lights that are needed to give Eastbourne’s town centre a shot in the arm - let’s hope that 2011 brings more good news about the council’s redevelopment scheme, which includes a bigger and better shopping centre and moving ‘diesel alley’ from Terminus Road to Ashford Road. Another late - and, sadly, unlikely - Christmas present would be news that Southern is cutting the commute time from Eastbourne to London, making the town more attractive to people looking to move to the coast. Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd’s Commission is also looking at ways to bring the ‘buzz’ back to the town by not only improving Eastbourne but also talking up what we already have to offer.

It’s not too late to make a donation to those less fortunate at Christmas. The Herald annually joins forces with the Salvation Army to run a Tin Appeal. Packages of food - and toys - are then sent out to the needy in Eastbourne. If you think you can help, drop off your donation today (Christmas Eve) at the Langney Road Citadel.

And, last but not least, Happy Christmas from the Herald to all our readers.