SUPERMARKET chain Morrisons has been given permission to build a new store and petrol station at Wick.
Redevelopment of the former Body Shop headquarters at the junction of the A259 and Lyminster Road will create 280 jobs in the store itself, with a further 270 jobs provided by the refurbishment of offices on the site as an “enterprise hub”.
Arun District Council’s development control committee approved the plans last Wednesday, with a substantial majority vote.
However, objectors including rival chains Waitrose and the Co-op, challenged Morrisons’ claim to be creating new jobs and warned jobs could be lost elsewhere as some trade transferred from existing stores.
Arun’s retail consultants said the case for and against the new supermarket was “finely balanced”, but most committee members came out in support of the scheme.
There was also backing, perhaps surprisingly, from the Wick Village Traders’ Association. Julie Robey, of Wick Information Centre, addressed the committee on behalf of her organisation and the traders..
“Local people currently travelling out of Wick for their main food shopping will now be able to shop in their own centre, and so are more likely to visit other shops at Wick Parade,” she added.
About 95 per cent of residents, traders and shoppers she had spoken to supported the new Morrisons.
Ham ward councillor Mike Northeast also welcomed the proposed store. Eighteen years ago, he said, there had been a similar debate over the impact the Tesco supermarket at Broad Piece might have on Littlehampton.
“We have not seen the demise of Littlehampton because of Tesco and we won’t see the demise of Littlehampton because of Morrisons,” he said, adding: “If it wasn’t Morrisons, it would be another supermarket.”
He accepted that access from the Wick roundabout would lead to more problems, but these would ultimately be relieved only by the construction of the Lyminster bypass.
Morrisons is contributing £1m towards the cost of the bypass as part of a multi-million pound of infrastructure payments.
Brookfield ward councillor Joyce Bowyer was the only committee member to vote against the plans. “The thing that bothers me most about this is the A259. They say they are going to make improvements to that roundabout. They can’t. There are five exits on that roundabout.”
Ricky Bower, an East Preston councillor, was “a bit torn” over the application. It would create employment opportunities, but, but could cause “horrendous” traffic problems at the roundabout.
However, Bognor Marine councillor Andrew Evans was surprised by the negative comments of some councillors. “If this was happening in Bognor, I would bite their hands off.” He added: “This, seriously, has to be good for Littlehampton, the people who live there, the shoppers and businesses.”
Planning officer Eve Hearsey said the county highways department had raised no objections to the application, although it wanted to see an improved pedestrian/cycle crossing on the A284 Lyminster Road. There would also be a new pedestrian crossing on the A259.
Officers had concluded that “there is no clear evidence that the proposal will lead to significant adverse impacts on Wick or Littlehampton town centre”.