MARKS & Spencer looks set to build a Simply Food store on the border of Angmering and Rustington, with planners recommending councillors to approve the proposal next week.
However, strong objections have been lodged against the plans by Waitrose, which moved its supermarket from Littlehampton to Rustington four months ago, and warns the M&S development would have an adverse effect on both those shopping centres, a point reinforced by Arun District Council regeneration officials.
Concerns have also been raised by Waitrose and by Angmering Parish Council over highway problems caused by additional traffic using the A259 to reach the proposed site, a few hundred yards east of the roundabout junction with Mill Lane.
Wednesday’s Arun development control committee will hear that the Simply Food store is supported by Rustington Parish Council and by 48 people living in the area who welcome the increase in retail choice.
An officer’s report to the committee describes the planning application as ‘complex’. M&S and its partner in the scheme, Commercial Development Projects Ltd (CDP) is willing to contribute £214,444 to support regeneration and economic development initiatives in Littlehampton and Rustington, working with the town and parish councils respectively ‘to aid them in promoting a vibrant and resilient town centre’.
The funding would consist of £99,444 to pay for a town centre manager for two years, £75,000 for environmental improvements and £40,000 for marketing, promotion and events.
The officer’s report says the contribution ‘is considered acceptable’. The council’s retail consultant estimates that the loss of trade resulting from the new store would be 8 per cent from Rustington and 4.7 per cent from Littlehampton.
Arun’s economic regeneration team said it would prefer to see such a development within an existing town centre and was concerned about the impact it would have on the retail centres of Littlehampton and Rustington.
The Simply Food store is part of a ‘hybrid’ planning application, which also includes outline proposals for a pub.
In a statement submitted with the application, an agent for M&S and CPD says the food store would employ about 50-55 people, with a similar number working for the pub. No operator has been secured to run the pub yet.
The statement says M&S has been looking for a site in the area for more than six years, although neither its conclusion, nor the Arun officer’s report, mention that there is an existing M&S Simply Food at the BP filling station in Worthing Road, Rustington, 200 yards away as the crow flies.
Network Rail has objected to the plans, expressing concern that more people might use a foot crossing of the railway at Brook Lane to reach the new development. It called on the developer to pay for a new footbridge so that the crossing could be closed, but M&S and CDP claimed that, as part of the route would be along a grassy track, Penfold Lane, which was generally muddy and had no lighting, it was unlikely there would be a significant increase in the number of people crossing there.