Oxted bucks the recession to attract new businesses
BUSINESSES are queuing up to move to Oxted as the town bucks the recession to attract an array of new enterprises.
While many towns across the county suffer from lack of investment and see shops close and remain empty for months, Oxted has a backlog of entrepreneurs scrambling to be the next new store on the high street.
There are nine to 15 businesses on a waiting list for an Oxted property at any one time.
Five or six of those are looking for fast-food restaurant premises, the rest want retail space.
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According to Paul Dashwood, chairman of Oxted Chamber of Commerce, it is a tribute to the town that so many people want to set up shop there. He said: "The fact that we've got free parking is a great attraction in the town. We've got great links with the A25 and London and we're situated in a very good and affluent part of the country."
While many high streets are packed out with well-known chains and franchises, Oxted has more niche and independent stores and Mr Dashwood says this is something that gives the town a unique advantage over other places.
"There are lots of independent shops here that you wouldn't find anywhere else," he said. "I also think there's a high level of customer service."
Peter Gildersleve, owner of estate agents Gildersleve and Payne, based in Station Road West, says Oxted has always been good at drawing businesses.
He added: "Oxted has historically outperformed the other neighbouring shopping centres and towns.
"I think that has happened for a number of reasons.
"I think first and foremost Oxted is a comfortable place to shop because no one drives through it to get to other places, all the cars that come here are here for the shops.
"You go to other places and they have traffic coming through the town all the time so it is much easier to shop in Oxted."
Parking in Oxted was a major issue last year when the introduction of paid-for parking was put forward by the county council, then dropped after huge community opposition. Some complaints do still arise, however, about what people say is a lack of parking in the town.
Mr Gildersleve added: "I think a lot of people do complain about the parking in this town but it's better than a lot of other areas, you get the one-hour free parking in the street and then there's three hours of free parking in the car parks."
There is a worry, however, that the town is not as diverse in its choice of retail as it could be, with many new outlets opening as coffee and charity shops but Mr Dashwood said the town would much rather see a used unit than a vacant one, no matter what shop takes over.