The plans are in for Storrington Waitrose

Old Mill Drive view
Old Mill Drive view

WAITROSE has formally submitted its long-awaited and controversial planning application to almost triple the size of its Storrington store.

Last week Horsham District Council released details of the application from the supermarket chain to extend their existing food store of 8,000sqft to 21,382sqft.

Old Mill Drive

Old Mill Drive

The plan includes demolishing shop units on Old Mill Drive and building new storage facilities and a two storey car park for 224 cars.

Waitrose say the development, if approved, will improve the area. A spokesman said: “Storrington’s individuality is an integral part of what makes it so special and what attracted us to first invest here.

“Maintaining a vibrant village where local trade can flourish is vital and in providing a significantly improved store and parking we believe we can achieve that.”

But campaigners from the Save our Storrington group (SOS) have criticised the plans, particularly raising concerns about pollution, while people who come into Storrington to shop at the existing Waitrose welcome the application.

Old Mill Drive

Old Mill Drive

Phil Tapsfield from SOS said: “We are disappointed that Waitrose hasn’t scaled down its plans and still intends to pedestrianise Old Mill Square.

“Most of all, though, we are worried that HDC will rule on this application before West Sussex County Council and HDC produce their Action Plan to address the Air Quality Management Area issue in June next year.

“Waitrose’s huge new store, if it is to succeed, must draw in customers from outside Storrington. These customers will come into the village by car.

“Traffic and air pollution are huge problems for our village. Our petition, calling on WSCC to tackle these issues and to consider very carefully its response to any planning applications that might make matters worse, has already gathered 650 signatures.”

Although a Waitrose spokesman has said there was “overwhelming support” for the pedestrianisation of the southern part of Old Mill Drive, retailers have concerns about how construction work might affect their business.

Charlotte Mace, from Toe’s Company in Old Mill Drive, said: “I am concerned about the future Waitrose development as I have an independent shop at the back of the existing car park, which would be hidden out of view if the current plans for the car park went ahead.

“I am also worried whether I would be able to sustain my business while the work was carrying on due to my position potentially being cut off from the rest of the village.”

Storrington residents Stephen and Christine Turrell feel the village is not the place for such a large store.

Old Mill Drive

Old Mill Drive

They said: “In the midst of the documents is a set of photomontage views of the proposals. These show a utopian, dreamlike world, created by the kindly hand of Waitrose.

“What these images conceal, however, is the sheer size of the development. It is truly massive, completely inappropriate for a village of some 5,000 population.

“It is obviously intended to draw in customers from far and wide to maximise Waitrose profits. The needs of the village of Storrington, with its major traffic and pollution problems, really don’t figure in this oversized scheme.

“A reasonably-sized expansion would have been welcomed by many, perhaps the majority of villagers.

“Yet Waitrose has chosen to go ahead with its planned takeover of the village centre.

“Do we really want to become a grid-locked Waitrose-ville?

“It is time to protest against this scheme. It is time to stand up for Storrington.”

But others in surrounding villages feel the expansion is a positive development for the area.

Margaret Scott, of London Road, Washington, who shops at the existing store, said: “The huge support for the existing premises proves beyond doubt that this particular supermarket is greatly needed in the Storrington area.

“It is this popularity that has led to an acute need to expand, so that there is a full range of Waitrose products as well as check-outs which are large enough to cope with a full weekly shop.

“The new scheme would bring enhanced parking provision, which is badly needed in Storrington, encouraging more shoppers into the village. “

Another shopper in favour of the proposed expansion is Pamela Smithson, of Billingshurst Road, Ashington.

She said: “There must be many people like myself, who live in a rural area within easy reach of Storrington, who have welcomed the quality produce now available. I also now spend money elsewhere in the village.

“The shop there has been such a success that it simply must expand. There is little room for shopping trolleys and the tills are short. A bigger store will benefit everyone and it will bring the much needed parking which Storrington has always needed.”

Both agreed that previously their options were to travel to either Horsham or Worthing to shop, often facing traffic congestion, taking longer and adding to her fuel costs.

Mrs Scott said: “Using the Storrington store means that my round trip is less than ten miles and it is a much greener option. I also use other facilities in the village, such as the post office, newsagent, bank and other small shops.”

To view the plans visit http://public-access.horsham.gov.uk/public-access/ and enter reference DC/11/2334

FOR:

JAMES Armstrong, Waitrose Property and Development Communications Manager, writes: “STORRINGTON’S individuality is an integral part of what makes it so special and what attracted us to first invest here.

Maintaining a vibrant village where local trade can flourish is vital and in providing a significantly improved store

and parking we believe we can achieve that.

Many of our customers have confirmed they currently do their main food shop outside of Storrington because we do not offer a range that meets their needs. The size of the proposed shop will enable us to provide Storrington shoppers with the range of goods and services we offer elsewhere. It will also prevent the need for these additional ve-

hicle movements taking place locally at present.

A smaller store would unfortunately not provide a sufficiently better offer to persuade more of our existing custom-

ers to carry out their main shop in Storrington and we would miss the opportunity to encourage more people to visit

other businesses in village centre.

It is in the interests of the village and our store to ensure traffic is not made worse and we have worked closely with engineers from the County Council to achieve this.

The catchment for our business is mainly Storrington, but also includes West Chiltington and Thakeham. We do not expect our customers to travel from further afield where there is the choice of much bigger superstores. The data contained in our detailed traffic assessments supports the view that we will not be generating significant new car trips to Storrington.

The future of Old Mill Drive and its affect on traffic is important. Horsham District Council, together with Storrington and Sullington Parish Council, had previously conducted a survey regarding provision of new public space in Storrington.

This indicated overwhelming support for the closure of Old Mill Drive and conversion to a pedestrian village centre.

We were therefore asked to incorporate this into the scheme, however it is clear that support for closure is not universal. We are therefore proposing to upgrade the roadway with a new shared surface, which provides the option to

close Old Mill Drive to traffic in the future without further costs.

Our application does not propose its closure.

Aligned with this is the matter of air quality and as part of our ongoing discussions, we are considering a number of potential mitigation measures should the Council wish to progress with the pedestrianisation.

The application we have submitted has been carefully considered to ensure we can continue to play an important role in Storrington. We certainly do not wish to deliver a scheme that would be detrimental to a village community we waited so long to become a part of.

AGAINST:

PETER Westrip, Chairman of Save Our Storrington, writes: “ALTHOUGH expected, it still came as a shock when Waitrose formally applied to expand its Storrington store by nearly three times.

A village of some 5,000 inhabitants isn’t an automatic choice for such a huge supermarket - only slightly smaller than Waitrose’s Worthing branch.

Nor did the attractive photomontage view of the proposed two-storey car park reveal the massive excavation that would precede it.

But a large car park for a very large store in a small village tells us something: Waitrose plans to attract many customers from outside Storrington. These customers will come in by car. Cars make pollution. And Storrington’s inadequate roads are already so afflicted by traffic that an Air Quality Management Area was declared in 2010.

Readings at Manley’s Hill were up to 40 per cent above acceptable levels. So for 18 months the village’s pollution levels have been monitored. By next June, West Sussex County Council and Horsham District Council must come up

with an Action Plan to reduce pollution to acceptable levels, or face a serious penalty.

But Waitrose’s application, if all goes according to its plan, will be decided before then. With its much-vaunted community values, why could Waitrose not delay its application until all data were analysed and the Action Plan was

in place?

What is more important for a community than being able to go about its business in a pleasant, healthy, uncongested environment?

Save Our Storrington’s petition, calling on WSCC to carry out a comprehensive traffic management study throughout Storrington and carefully consider its response to applications that could make matters worse, has already attracted 650 signatures - and rising.

To its credit, in the last 18 months the parish council has opposed planning applications - on both brownfield and

greenfield sites - that threatened to add to traffic and pollution levels.

Given that no one seriously believes Waitrose’s expansion won’t bring more traffic into the village, what is the company’s response? To ‘mitigate the impact of the development’ it proposes to change the pelican crossing by the post office to a puffin and install a mini-roundabout to give priority to traffic turning into North Street. At least Waitrose is honest enough not to say ‘negate’.

If these measures really would make a significant difference, surely the council would have already put them in place? This really won’t do. We urge Waitrose to return to its core values and reconsider its proposals.