Report by Robin Young
Photography: Holly Mason
POLITICIANS say they are unable to help traders at Gosport’s Basepoint Business Centre after its multi-national owner imposed crippling rent increases and introduced car parking charges that come into force this Monday, October 3.
Of approximately 20 businesses occupying units at the site on Aerodrome Road, a quarter are in the process of moving out with many others looking for alternative premises.
And there is speculation that the serviced offices company responsible for the punitive measures, IWG plc – which took over from Regus – is making sure that the enterprise is no longer financially viable so that the buildings can be levelled and replaced by more lucrative residential development.
But Gosport Borough Council Leader Councillor Peter Chegwyn said on Friday: “This location is allocated as an employment site. Any planning application would need to be considered on its own individual merits.
“However, the council are strongly of the view that this should stay as an employment site and that a residential redevelopment would not be appropriate.
“Personally, I support the businesses currently at Basepoint who provide valuable employment for local people and have worked hard to make their businesses a success.
“I hope the multi-national conglomerate who now own the site will reconsider their proposed rent increases and new parking charges which are wholly inappropriate at a time when we should be supporting local businesses, not making it harder for them to survive.”
Gosport’s MP, Dame Caroline Dinenage, has also expressed support for traders at the business centre, which first opened as a charitable initiative almost 20 years ago.
She has written to British holding company IWG, which has its headquarters in Jersey and Switzerland and who then forwarded the request for reconsideration to the manager at Gosport Basepoint.
However, her spokeswoman told the Globe: “The response was not hopeful. The changes being made are not specific to Gosport; they are being rolled out across all Basepoints.”
“Caroline has requested a meeting with the manager and we are currently waiting for them to confirm a date.”
“It looks unlikely that the charges will not be reconsidered. It really will impact the local businesses. Caroline, as ever, will do all she can.”
Businessman Ramsey Martin, who runs Advance Marine Innovation with five units at the centre which he moved into in 2007, has been co-ordinating a campaign launched by firms opposed to the IWG plans.
He said: “The occupants of the business centre currently have a major problem.
“Parking at the business centre has always been part of the rental agreement but the owners are now forcing major changes and will be making punitive charges on the occupants and any visitors to their companies for parking. The way in which it is being put in place is extremely heavy handed.
“The ownership of the business centre was originally SEEDA, then Basepoint. Basepoint was bought out by Regus. In turn Regus are owned by an international company, IWG.
“So a business centre that was originally put in place to promote local business and employment is now being used to maximise profits for a foreign-based company. The result will be businesses forced out of Gosport.”
Gosport Plant and Tool Hire moved into Basepoint 18 months ago, with Dame Caroline as guest of honour at the launch ceremony.
Now owner Andy Bottriell is planning to move on grounds of cost and security.
Where staff parking had previously been free, a company car and three vehicles used by employees would now incur a total of £375 each month. That is on top of rents which, for some units, will double when they are due for renewal.
Another crucial factor behind the decision to relocate, though, is the fact that the public car park will no longer be protected by security gates.
Andy said: “We used to be able to leave expensive machinery outside at night. With the car park wide open, there will be nothing to stop it being stolen.”
Nearby, 1Device Fixer owner Ian Clegg is contemplating moving out when his lease is due for renewal at a drastically increased rate.
“The car parking charges are unfair, unethical and the implementation has probably been illegal,” he said.
“The notices went up on the day of the Queen’s funeral, September 19. And although the charges are not supposed to start until October 3, there was nothing to tell people that and people have been paying right from the start, with no refund.”
“There is supposed to be an hour’s free parking for all customers and visitors – especially important for patients using the NHS facilities here – but the website just takes money, £1, for two hours. And, when people look at their card statements, they see that there has been a further 49p taken in admin fees.”
“When we questioned the Basepoint management about that, we were told ‘Uber and Just eat do it’, as if that was some sort of justification.”
Tammy’s Dog Training owner Lyn Dubois feels that she has reached the end of this particular road having survived the pandemic: I am a small, self-made business who has been at Basepoint for seven years. I do my bit for the community by offering a free service once a week to educate owners on having a well-behaved pup who fits into the local community.
“I thought it was Covid that would bring me down but, no, I survived that (barely) and now it seems Basepoint will be the one to bring me down, unless this situation is resolved (not holding my breath) or I find another small local base to work in. My comments:
- Basepoint has been underhanded in the way this was brought about.
- I have several elderly clients who don’t even have a mobile phone, let alone a smart phone (I only have had one a couple of years).
- Many don’t do online banking, so are unsure how they would pay.
- This is now being advertised as a public car park so what about the security gates we had at first?
- Nowhere does it state the prices on entering the car park. I have some clients who drop their dogs off and pick them up at a later time. How would this affect them? We have verbally been told there is an hour’s ‘grace’ but nowhere is that in writing.
- I feel Basepoint wants us all out as they are going to put us out of business – makes one wonder what plans they have for the site.
- My contract runs out this year and as, well as quoting me over £1,000 per car per year (yes, I have written that correctly) to park, my rent increase in so high I am not going to be able to afford this. When I first rented the unit, it was a small business centre. Oh, how things have changed.”
One irate businesswoman – who asked not to be named – said: “The business park that was created as an enterprise zone for small businesses by Gosport Borough Council, is now owned by the guy that sits in sixth place in the Forbes Rich List, Mark Dixon This will only ever get worse. This is not to solve any problem such as ‘monkey business’ customers, it’s to generate as much revenue as possible from us. The car park was always intended to be used exclusively by the small business that rent space and their customers.”
“The way the car park management firm has responded to being able to leave and come back says it all. They say in that period, as in the period you have paid for, the free hour is almost certainly going to be timed from entrance, not how long you are actually in the car park.”
“People paying for example two hours can leave the carpark and return in that period. This will cause a problem for every single customer of mine. They will come in to drop off items to be repaired, and then come back in at any time during the day to collect. As with many others, an accessible car park is a main reason for being here in the first place.”
“In November I will have been in this site for eight years; there are a few that have been here even longer.
“The site being secure at night was also a big reason for me being here. We used to even have Kestral guards come around to check the site at night. Mark my words, this gate will never close again. It goes against the plan of making this a public pay and display, it’s 24/7.
“I really object to this company putting up false and misleading signs; multiple people have already paid parking fees when they didn’t have to.”
“Will this company be reimbursing these people automatically? I highly doubt it! The QR code should link to a page that says this car park is not active yet, and even say the first hour is free, but instead you get told to pay immediately, and by the way it’s not £1, we need a 49p charge to go on top of that.”
“I feel this is way past the scope of a ‘house rules’ document they are using to implement these changes. This type of document is intended to say things like, ‘leave places like kitchens, toilets and common areas the way you find them, park sensibly between bays, be considerate of others etc’, not to fundamentally change the entire nature of the place.
“To those unaware of how they are planning to do this, you will have to pay for every space you use on a monthly basis, the charge of which they are being extreme quiet about. The lowest I have heard is they are allowed to negotiate down to £30 per bay per month, excluding VAT. It seems you can’t have more than one at this price. However, this doesn’t mean you will actually be able to park here. You won’t get a numbered bay to use which others are stopped from using. It is still a first come first served, even if you have paid for it.
“This situation happened at Basepoint in Southampton the last time the football was on. The car park was full of people who had paid to use it to park to watch the game, advertised as parking for this game by this management firm. The business owners were not able to actually park in the car park they are being charged for!
“I think we can beat this if we all act together as one. But there is no use going at Basepoint individually as we will just be fobbed off. If we were to all change from direct debit to standing order, set the standing order amount to your rent and pay the additional fees for phone lines, electricity usage etc. we could all say that we do not except these additional charges that we were not informed about when signing our leases. With a direct debit they can change it as they decide to include a parking fine.”
She added: “If we all as a group covered these signs, blocked the lens on the ANPR camera and refused to accept these new terms that are being forced on us I don’t think they would have any choice. As long as we are paying our rent they cannot legally over lock us, especially for an additional parking charge they have created, they wouldn’t be able to do a thing.
“If the area managers come down, we all talk to them as one and tell them to politely ‘jog on’.”
As Ramsey said: “A significant number of the visitors to Diabetic Eye Screening and Solent Mind I talk are older frail people. Reaching the QR code signs in the areas near the doors they will be using will involve walking across deep loose gravel. This could easily cause some of these people to fall with a risk of injury.”
PICTURED: The busy car park and units at Basepoint, where some customers and patients have been paying charges ahead of schedule.