Tuesday, 07 April 2020

Couple plan to open high street health food shop

A NEW health food shop and café is set to open in Wargrave.

Nick and Sarah Hart want to convert the former offices of surveyors Quantum Valuations in High Street, which has been empty for 11 months.

The business would be called Hartisan and would give the street a lift following the closure of a number of shops and other businesses in recent years.

The Harts, who live in the village, have applied to Wokingham Borough Council for permission to convert the ground floor of the two-storey building to retail use.

Mr Hart, who works in property and has been a parish councillor for three years, said he wanted to “put the heart back into Wargrave”.

He said: “We genuinely believe Wargrave is a lovely place to live and we are going to try to offer the community a place to be.

“Wargrave high street has suffered like so many other high streets across the country in recent years and no longer provides a vibrant place to visit.

“The impact of rates, increases in the minimum wage, devaluation of the pound affecting currency and import prices, VAT and the internet have all taken their toll on retailers. It is little wonder that the small independent retailer has been forced reluctantly from our high streets with these extra cost burdens.

“We have to bring back a sense of community to our towns and villages and help to support local businesses to thrive and survive in these challenging economic times.”

The property, which is opposite Woodclyffe Hall, used to be used as a tea parlour and International Tea Stores in the 1870s.

The first floor now comprises two flats. The whole of the ground floor used to be a shop until 1986 when part of it was converted into a flat.

Then in 1994 planning permission was granted to change the remaining retail space to financial or professional use.

The Harts want to convert the entire ground floor back into retail use and make some minor structural changes internally. The upstairs flats would remain as they are.

The application says the couple are “determined to bring enlivenment and vibrancy back to Wargrave high street” and “to create a sense of place for its many inhabitants, young and old, a place for the community to share time in a relaxed environment and a place to create memories”.

Wargrave Parish Council has not objected to the application but has asked for appropriate noise mitigation measures to be considered.

Caroline Mulcahy, who lives in one of the flats, says she is concerned about increased noise.

She said: “Nick Hart has given his word, both verbally and in writing, that he will address the noise issues that he is aware of and I believe he will try but I’m just not sure how much difference sound insulation can make to properties as old as ours. To make the business viable, the applicant will need a great deal of footfall, which will compound the problem.

“Nick has demonstrated in this past year that he is incredibly thorough when he sets out to do anything, but I am concerned about the impact of these proposals.

“I’m not arguing against the business. I’m sure it would be popular and an asset to the high street and to Wargrave, but I don’t want it to adversely affect the quality of my life or the business to affect the saleability of the flat when the time comes.”

Megan Rowson, who lives in High Street, said the business would be a “great addition”, adding: “I fully support this planning application. It would be lovely to see a bustling high street.”

Rebecca Morrisson, also of High Street, said: “This would be a brilliant addition to the high street. It would draw people into the heart of the village.”

Michael Cashin, of Braybrooke Gardens, said: “Wargrave is a fantastic, buzzing village which currently lacks what this planning application will offer. The proposed business may even regenerate the high street, which has suffered many business closures in the last couple of years.”

If the Harts are granted permission, Hartisan should be open by the end of the year, employing three full-time staff during the week and two part-timers at weekends.

Over the last 40 years, Wargrave has lost many businesses, including a greengrocer, butcher, electrical store, supermarket, newsagents and an antique shop.

Last year, the Italian restaurant Da Toni closed after less than 12 months, having replaced the Haweli restaurant, which shut in June 2018.

In August Victoria News, a newsagent and post office in Victoria Road, closed and permission was granted for the former Wargrave Antiques shop in High Street to be converted into residential use.

Last month the Robin’s Nest art gallery in High Street closed.

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