MARKS and Spencer will open a Simply Food store on the Angerming and Rustington border in early 2017 after rejecting an alternative site in Littlehampton.
Planning permission was granted by Arun District Council’s development control committee last Wednesday for the retail unit and public house – a tenant for which has yet to be found.
In identifying the proposed location, M&S bosses rejected the chance to move into the former Waitrose site, in Avon Road.
“We are confident it will be successful and popular with local residents,” said M&S planning manager Andrea MacGregor- Barbour.
“This is evidenced by the support received and the number of letters of support.”
The application had been welcomed by around 50 residents, who were in favour of increased retail choice.
But concerns were raised by agents on behalf of Waitrose, raising concerns about potential traffic problems caused by the new site and a retail assessment, which noted likely impacts on Rustington and Littlehampton town centres.
The committee heard from Sally Miles, of Store Property, which has major commercial interests in Rustington and Littlehamtpon.
She said she was concerned about the impact on the town centres, while the nature of the permission being sought meant there were no guarantees an M&S would be built.
She said: “We are concerned this will impact on the high street. The retail assessment is inadequate and flawed.”
“It should not be purely because people like M&S that this proposal should be considered. No guarantees they will be the operator”
Agents for M&S said they had they had been thorough in their retail assessment, with the proposed site the only option suitable.
The store will create a total of 55 new jobs, with £214,000 of contributions to mitigate the impact on the town centres.
M&S has also agreed to pay half the costs of installing a new alarm system at a nearby pedestrian railway crossing, which may experience increased footfall when the store is built.
A representative from Network Rail said this would ‘potentially save lives’, with the current crossing suffering from poor visibility.
Chairman Stephen Haymes expressed doubt, however, that the crossing would be used frequently due to stiles hampering easy progression.
“It was muddy and I ruined a pair of shoes,” he said.
The application was approved, with just one councillor against the plans.