Some thoughts from the secondhand book trade here, I gather that Chaucer Bookshop in Canterbury has closed, this does rather make one feel part of a dieing breed.
For my own part I can only say that shop sales are holding up very well indeed despite the recession, or possibly because of it, I don’t recall my stock being as good as it is now for a very long time.
Internet sales on the other hand are way down most markedly our sales via Amazon.com, I had better explain how this works.
As well as selling new books Amazon can sell you out of print and secondhand books via a third party i.e. secondhand booksellers around the world.
Of our stock of about 30,000 titles about 2,500 of them we list on a database which we upload to Amazon and if you search for a book on Amazon and one of ours come up, when you buy it you pay Amazon who put the money into our bank account, they send us your name and address and we post the book to you.
We have been doing this for about ten years, so have considerable experience in this area and I would say if our online sales are considerably reduced so are most other peoples.
Our biggest problem at the moment is the deteriorating standard of ordinary behaviour in the town centre and I gather this is a problem in most other towns, another broken shop window this weekend.
I should point out that the individual that did this first tried and failed to kick in the window of the undertaker opposite us gave up and crossed the road and kicked ours in.
Much of this problem emanates from the 24 hour licensing laws prior to which we had one broken in seven years.
When the police arrived they had other ideas as to why things had deteriorated particularly badly recently, these being that the council had taken to rehousing problem families in the town centres and worst of all concentrating them in the tower blocks.
If the council were to go out of their way to think of a way to break our town’s economies, I would say to do this during the recession would be about the best plan they could come up with.
On the one hand we have a Conservative opposition nationally that say that they intend to deal with antisocial behaviour, yet locally a Conservative council that appears to be doing their best to make things worse.
I am not unaware that the short-term beneficiaries of this are the companies running out of town shopping and leisure facilities so perhaps the council is doing this deliberately.
It is crunch time for Pleasurama this Thursday when the Council cabinet hold a meeting to decide if the developer should be allowed to both renege on the development agreement and build the development. The council are being very secretive about this meeting so no details are publicly available and the press and public are to be excluded.
My understanding of the situation is as follows:
The detail of the agreement state:
“1. On exchange of the development agreement, the developer will pay a deposit of £55,000.
2. Following exchange of the development agreement, within 3 months, the developer will enter into a highways agreement with Kent County Council as specified in the planning permission. The works refer to a new roundabout and bus lay-by in Marine Esplanade.
3. The Site Lease Completion Date is the date 10 working days after the date of completion of the Highways Agreement.
4. On the Site Lease Completion Date:
a. The developer is to pay £550,000 to the Council which will include the deposit of £55,000.
b. The Site Leases of the hotel suite, the mixed use site and the residential premises will be granted to the Developer.
c. The developer will enter into an option agreement in favour of the Council, whereby the Council will be granted an option to aquire the Developers interest in the hotel site and the cliff stairway lease.
d. The Developer will provide a £5.6m performance bond in favour of the Council.
5. SFP Ventures (UK) limited is not entitled to assign the Development Agreement.”
I have been told by a number of different sources, although only one named the figure so it may be inaccurate that, the developer hasn’t deposited the bond and wishes to renege on the agreement and deposit a cash amount of £1,000,000 in a bank account as a guarantee.
It is my understanding that this money would be sourced from a British Virgin Islands company with doubts about it’s certificate of authenticity for money laundering purposes.
The sum appears to be insufficient if the development fails in some way.
The new plans go against strong EA recommendations both for a FRA and emergency escapes, so the building is likely to be blighted and the bond needed for this reason alone.
One of the biggest problems for the new Pleasurama development will be that of people throwing bricks and rubble etc from the cliff top at the building and onto the cars and people below.
I thought perhaps that this could be mitigated by redesigning the development so that the it was against the cliff face and the cliff top extended above the development with a step in front of it to catch objects dropped from the cliff top.
I have consulted with the man who designed the cliff façade repairs and he tells me that unfortunately they haven’t been done in a way that would allow the building to be built against the cliff.
I am fast coming to the conclusion that if the developer had consulted with me before the cliff façade repairs and the access road work commenced I could have saved him millions of pounds.
The developer’s agent now says that he and the contractor will consult with me over the problems with the development if the cabinet decides to let them drop the bond.