If you live in Weymouth do you do your shopping in the town or do you spread your custom about a bit?
I only ask because troubled times for Southill’s bus services have seen rescue proposals include a link from Southill to Morrisons supermarket to enable residents from that area to catch a bus to Dorchester for hospital appointments or to visit the county town market.
This raises important points about the future of both towns.
The great Charles Street development in Dorchester has been given the rough edge of many tongues for being too much public money spent to benefit too few with too little public consultation while Weymouth’s town centre is stuttering so much that attempts are being made to set up a new Business Improvement District, something which already exists in Dorchester.
The question for Weymouth is whether it may all be too little too late.
Council purses are so empty they contain little but famished moths with the authority voting to stop financing the Pavilion, sell its own offices and the Guildhall and cut back on a variety of other drains on its finances.
This includes closing Weymouth Tourist Information Centre on May 31st and Portland’s in September, brave moves for an authority whose area relies on tourism for its lifeblood.
Those visitors need more than just a beach to lie on and pubs and restaurants to relax in and you’ve only got to take a stroll round the main shopping streets to be immediately struck by the amount of whitewashed windows, empty premises and signs “For Sale” and “For Rent” that there are.
It is also noticeable how many businesses have cut their opening hours or even the number of days that they are open and, if this isn’t very attractive for visitors, it is a whole lot less attractive for residents who may be considering spending what money they do have in those outlets.
The economy is so dire at the moment that people are devoting far more time than ever before over what they buy and where they buy it from.
Little things can crucially tip the balance.
Weymouth has finally woken up to the fact that its sky-high car park charges don’t do it any favours and recent efforts have produced a much better approach with free Sunday parking and other measures.
But it remains a cold hard fact that one hour’s parking in Weymouth costs you £1.40 while £2 can buy you an entire day in Dorchester.
Maybe the county town’s Charles Street scheme was a bit brutal, but it is there and shoppers like to feel good when they shop.
So in a straight battle between a gleaming new development with close by High Street shops and cheap parking in Dorchester and Weymouth’s gap-toothed commercial smile of working businesses and empty premises even so small a thing as a different style bus service can be crucial.
That very point – the risk that shoppers might use the proposed service to go to Dorchester rather than shop in Weymouth town centre – was raised at a Southill public meeting yesterday.
The whole Dorchester-or-Weymouth scenario must also consider Weymouth’s ever growing number of premises devoted to new charity shops, coffee shops and restaurants. All are no doubt laudable but are they the sort of enterprise to help encourage people in to Weymouth for a decent spend?
At the end of the day only time will tell but there are worrying signs that Weymouth’s finance and commercial problems may get worse with no obvious sign that they might get better.