5:00pm Sunday 1st June 2014
By Pete Grant
A RESTAURANT boss has hit back at claims there are too many eateries springing up in the town centre, claiming that high streets are simply adapting to changing times.
Andy Laurillard of small Thai chain Giggling Squid, which opened in February in West Street, believes restaurants can actually help stem the decline of retail premises.
It comes after Marlow Chamber of Commerce chairman Tim Graham said last week that Marlow needed a more diverse mix of retail due to the number of eating venues in the town.
The Marlow-based solicitor also said too many could put the High Street’s prosperity at risk if there was another blip in the economy.
But Mt Laurillard insists the restaurant trade is a knight in shining armour for an otherwise ailing retail market.
He said: "I'm not sure why restaurants are more vulnerable to recession in Marlow than retailers, estate agents and DVD rental shop. If well run they have pretty good margins.
"In general restaurants are saving town centres - side streets all over the country (like West street) which are significantly empty (like West Street) are being given a new lease of life by the eatery investment going in.
"Lots of retail business models don't work anymore as Internet buying replaces traditional shopping. Town centres have to adapt to that structural change which is far more powerful and long lived than the business cycle effect, especially in Marlow!"
He added that though Giggling Squid may be new, it simply replaces another restaurant, Pachanga, which closed down last year.
But new restaurants are threatening to replace shops and offices in Marlow, with a number of applications submitted recently to convert premises into eateries.
And there are fears that as a magnet for tourists and shoppers, a more balanced selection of retail stores is needed to ensure Marlow continues as a vibrant ‘destination’ town.
This month cafe chain Bill’s announced it wants to move into an old office in West Street.
And last week, pizza and grill restaurant Wildwood obtained permission to convert gift shop Lorimers into an eatery.
However, the chain claims it will be contributing to the community, rather than detracting from it.
Its application said: "Being in a sustainable location, it would add vitality and viability to Marlow and help support the day time and night time economies."
The new diner will also create around 30 jobs.
Wycombe District Council already has a policy to protect the retail mix in Marlow, which is written into planning policy.
Its Delivery and Site Allocation (DSA) document demands that no less than 60 per cent of the length of shop frontage on Marlow's main shopping streets should be given over for retail use at any time.
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