Bognor Regis Herald: Civic Society leader challenged over negative charity shop views/ + Hugh Coster replies update

The Bognor Regis Observer this week carries a feature on the views of Hugh Coster, Vice-chairman of the Bognor Regis Civic Society, about Regeneration in which he makes comments about charity shops and other local commerce.

His views include that charity shops amongst others increase the number of non-browsable shops. He also dismisses the value of restaurants, street markets etc and has drawn the comment from the Town Centre Manager, Toyubar Rahman, “ If the Civic Society has a plan on how to create a perfect balance then I ask them to please share their ideas and put it into action, however, so far they have offered no solution nor activity to improve the town.”

Toyubar Raham, Town Centre Manager

Now Bognor Regis Town Councillor, Jan Cosgrove, has weighed in by attacking Mr Coster for negative views about local charity shops. “Mr Coster repeats the worn-out cliche about these excellent and active examples of local social commerce/trading, but he might like to consider some inconvenient facts about his out-of-date and insulting/patronising views.

Firstly, if he ever bothered to check the charity shops in town by going into them or even poking his sniffy nose through the door, he’d see that the one immediately obvious thing is that they are distinctly browsable! They are always full of people doing just that, and often they are Visitors, whose increase is one of CiViC’s mantras! Secondly they employ, at no cost, many dedicated local residents with hours and skills to give, worth quite a bit in wages-value, and some of whom are themselves benefitting by e.g. work experience, therapeutic activity etc which again has been assigned economic value.”

Councillor Cosgrove

Cllr Cosgrove also pointed out that those using the shops, even just to browse, are doing so in the context of them being amongst ordinary commercial shops. Additionally, he pointed out that the charity shops pay rental at full market value and are not, as is often claimed, exempt from full business rates. “It’s not as if they are dowdy, many are excellently shop-dressed, with inviting layouts. They also occupy commercial premises which would, for sure, be otherwise empty. There is not, so far as I know, a queue of premiseless businesses wanting to jump in. Or hasn’t he noticed empty shops in the Town?”

Bognor Precinct: Chestnut Tree House Shop at 1 year, with volunteers and staff

“These socially useful shops also do something else which in today’s and tomorrow’s world is and will be more and more important. They Recycle, adding value to goods, and the surplus value after trading costs of rent and utilities goes to social/public good not profit.” Cllr Cosgrove added that the money raised for the wide range of good causes added/replaced the value of money given by public authorities. “In a very real sense, an added-value on a voluntary basis to the taxes and national insurance we are required to pay.”

He commented on the responsibility of local leaders, voted for or not, re their comments, and accused Mr Coster of belittling the dedication of a fine group of local shop volunteers and their managers, people whose untiring efforts go to help those in need, here and abroad, sufferers from illness and .limiting conditions, animal welfare, children, the hungry and more. “These folk put in hours and efforts 6/7 days a week, they ARE a beneficial part of the local economy. I ask Mr Coster, also, when did the CiViC Society last meet? Has his personal view on this been debated there and agreed? What notice has Arun taken of his or CiViC’s views about Regeneration anyway? None that I can see.

He said he was aware that CiViC no longer meets regularly as once it did, and attributed that to its declining importance and support in the Town. “I also hate to point this out, but their late Chairman, Laurie Barnes, died some time back and they have not met to elect a new one so far as I know. Before Hugh spouts any more, may I respectfully suggest he might think about the

validity of his mandate. CiViC has carried the motto ‘the Voice of the People’. So who says? In my view, CiViC is not doing a valuable job which it could and should be doing. People know The Herald is run by me and will promote ideas etc to which I am sympathetic. That is not what CiViC should be, promoting his views.”

The Herald is inviting Mr Coster to respond in these pages, if he wishes. This paper fully supports the constant effort and dedication of many good-hearted local people who work for and support our charity shops and their value not only for their good causes but to local shoppers and visitors.

Since publication above, this response has been received from Mr Coster plus my comment.

Hugh Coster: “In response to Cllr. Jan Cosgrove about my comments on “non-browsable” shops in the Town’s main shopping street in the Bognor Regis Observer and concerning charity shops, I have to say that I was not correctly quoted. [ED: the article was based solely on the Observer article above — see below]

“I did not include charity shops in the “non-browsable” category, but I did say that CiViC regards charity shops as providing a valuable service in recycling and helping the less well off — apart from their obvious charitable function. However, it is well known that a certain section of the shopping public do not use and will not go into charity shops, and therefore having too many of them concentrated into the Town centre will discourage those shoppers from coming to our Town. This is a negative factor if we are seeking to increase footfall in the Town and it would therefore be sensible to have a limit on the number of charity shops in the Town Centre.

It would be sensible if Cllr. Cosgrove, before he is tempted to go off into a long-winded and rude diatribe about other persons or organisations in the Town, would check the facts upon which he is basing his remarks.”

My comment: “ Hugh, I saw only the comments attributed to you in the Observer. I assume they had your permission to quote? Please let me know if they did not. I am not in the habit of reading your personal FB page. nor do I any longer participate in the local community pages. There is nothing of a rant or intemperance in disagreeing strongly with views you have freely expressed in public in the trad and social media, nor am I obliged to leave in comments I feel are incorrect. Jan”

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