Supermarket giants in battle over village site

Supermarket giants Waitrose are going into battle with Horsham District Council over a controversial piece of land in Storrington.

Waitrose is accusing the council of deliberately delaying consideration of a planning application to alter a bus turning circle in Old Mill Drive.

The supermarket wants to make the changes as ‘phase one’ of future development of land it owns in the area - land, which says Waitrose, the council itself wants to buy.

The supermarked has now lodged a planning appeal against ‘non determination’ of its proposals.

It is also accusing Horsham District Council leader Ray Dawe of intervening to pre-determine the planning application which had been recommended for approval by planning officers.

The supermarket chain says that its proposed changes to the bus turning circle are to enable future development of land it owns for housing or retirement homes. Waitrose dropped previous proposals to enlarge its supermarket on the site.

However, public opposition was put forward when proposals for the bus turning circle were first outlined. Waitrose amended its plans and said that open land and trees to the west of Old Mill Drive would be safeguarded.

Since then, Waitrose maintains that consideration of its proposals by the council have been delayed on a number of occasions.

Waitrose agents Cushman and Wakefield, in an appeal statement, say: “The Local Planning Authority has continued to defer committee dates for the application to be heard and has still yet to determine the application.

“Waitrose is therefore reluctantly submitting an appeal against non-determination. It is very rare for Waitrose, or its parent company, John Lewis, to submit a planning appeal against the nondetermination of a planning authority, but it feels after this protracted timescale, that it has no option.”

In a summary of its appeal, the agents maintain that the council’s behaviour has been ‘unreasonable’ and add: “The intervention of the leader of the council appears motivated to pre-determine the planning application and has resulted in deliberately delaying determining the application.”

A spokesman for Horsham District Council said that the planning application had been due to be considered at a committe meeting on October 17 but was withdrawn “in response to concerns that the proposal would conflict with the aims of the Storrington Old Mill Drive Diamond Planning Brief.

“This Brief looks at the shopping precinct, car park and the immediate surrounding area of central Storrington and seeks an approach that includes consideration of this important economic centre as a whole and not one that looks at just one element of it in isolation.

“The Brief is an adopted council planning document and is therefore a key consideration for any application in the Old Mill Drive area.

“The applicant is fully aware of the Council’s considerable concerns in respect of how this proposed reconfiguration in Old Mill Drive would relate to wider planning objectives for Storrington and discussions were taking place to progress the matter. The Council owns the car park and is keen to look at what its possible involvement could be in any redevelopment of the wider area to help achieve the best result for the village.

“It is unfortunate that an appeal was submitted before these discussions could be resolved and the Council is not now able to determine the application.

“The appeal will be handled by the Planning Inspectorate and the Council is currently awaiting details of the timetable and procedure.”