Waitrose will not go ahead with plans for a superstore in Storrington, it was revealed last week.
The large new store, shown above in an artist’s impression from 2011, has been scrapped along with plans for a double deck car park.
Instead Waitrose will focus on a ‘less ambitious project’ according to local councillor and leader of Horsham District Council Ray Dawe.
The move sparked fears for the future of the existing shop in Old Mill Square, but a spokesman for Waitrose told the County Times it remained ‘fully committed’ to the village, and would not be closing or selling the site.
Following a meeting with representatives of the supermarket chain this week, Mr Dawe (Con, Chantry) admitted he is ‘deeply disappointed’ over the current state of the long-awaited project.
He said the plan will be ‘less ambitious’ than previously believed, and added a ‘partial remodelling’ of Old Mill Square and car park improvements will no longer go ahead. Mr Dawe said the extended store would not open until August 2016.
He said: “I, together with other local district parish councillors in Storrington, have been increasingly concerned about delays by Waitrose in going ahead with their plans for an enlarged store in the village.
“I met representatives of Waitrose before Christmas and told them of the considerable local concern about the delay. I had a further meeting with them this week.
“At the meeting, Waitrose said that there has been a notable change in consumer purchasing habits leading major grocery organisations to pull out of large store, and that they need to revise their plans.
“Waitrose confirmed that they are totally committed to having a store in Storrington and have now decided to go ahead with a less ambitious project. I understand that they plan to have an enlarged store open by August 2016.
“They said that their new plans will be centred on an extension to the rear of the existing store but that the aim of a partial remodelling of Old Mill Square by removing some existing buildings and double decking part of the car park will now not go ahead.
“I am deeply disappointed that the owners of Old Mill Square and Waitrose have been unable to put together a more comprehensive scheme that would see the long-awaited improvements to the precinct.”
Responding to doubts raised by some residents over the future of the supermarket in the village, a Waitrose spokesperson dismissed the suggestion the store could leave the village altogether.
The spokesperson said: “We are firmly committed to Storrington so are not pulling out of the village or selling the site to another supermarket as some speculation has suggested.”
The spokesperson was unable to confirm when work to expand the current store would begin, but added an update should be available soon.
The project, which was given the green light by councillors in December 2012, has been plagued by delays.
In November 2013, the County Times reported that work to expand the store had been pushed back to 2014, with the project set to be finalised in 2015.
But the development hit another stumbling block in July 2014, when a Waitrose representative confirmed the construction date as early 2015, with a view to opening its doors to the public in 2016.
The new store could provide employment for an additional 80 staff, while the part-demolition of the existing supermarket will create an in-store coffee shop and two-level car park.
Campaigners in the area have previously opposed the plan, with air pollution levels in Storrington still a concern for residents.
The action group ‘Save Our Storrington’ has campaigned against the expansion on the grounds of traffic problems, air quality in the village, and the size of the store.
In August 2014, award winning environmentalist Nicola Peel told the County Times why she objected to the plan.
She said: “I am so pleased to discover the delay on the Waitrose development. Hopefully this will give time to see some sense.
“We really do not need so much choice. Nor does the world need more packaging, more waste, more transportation and endlessly more stuff.
“Storrington already experiences at times heavy traffic congestion, do we want more?”
According to the Daily Air Quality Index, produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) last year, air pollution in towns and villages across the south east is at Level 8 or higher with Storrington at Level 9 - just one point off the worst possible level.
West Sussex County Council installed traffic cameras to monitor air pollution levels in the village as part of a Low Emission Zone trial.
But this drew criticism from some residents who asked why the trial was being carried out prior to the opening of the expanded store.
Speaking last July, a spokesperson for the supermarket said: “We are currently undertaking a significant amount of pre-start work on the proposals and reviewing our delivery plan. We hope to finalise this work in the coming weeks. Our aim though is to start on site early next year in order to complete the redevelopment in 2016.”