Plans to reduce size of Thakeham’s new village shop approved

The shop unit pictured in January this year
The shop unit pictured in January this year

Plans to reduce the size of a village shop planned for Thakeham have been approved by councillors, despite objections from residents.

When the original planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the Abingworth Nursery site off Storrington Road the scheme included a range of community facilities including sport pitches and new village hall.

A number of the homes have already been completed at Abingworth Meadow. The building which will include the shop has been constructed, but not completed internally.

However Abingworth Developments has struggled to find an occupier as the size of the proposed premises on the ground floor is believed to be too large.

It therefore submitted a fresh application for a reduced-size shop and cafe, with the rest of the space given over to a veterinary surgery.

This was approved by Horsham District Council’s planning committee south on Tuesday (April 16).

The upper floor will be split into two flats rather than the previously planned one.

More than 100 objections were received to the plans, raising concerns about a lack of evidence to support the application, and whether a reduced shop would be able to support the needs of the community and could offer a sufficient amount of products.

But council officers felt the applicant had made reasonable attempts to find an occupier for the larger retail unit without success, with tenants now lined up for the smaller shop and veterinary surgery.

Agent for the scheme Matt Smith, from D & M Planning, said: “The current proposal represents a viable alternative that offers the community a much-need local convenience store.”

Owen Richards, clerk at Thakeham Parish Council, described how central Thakeham ‘badly needs a shop as soon as possible to compliment the other facilities’.

Two of the ward members John Blackall and David Jenkins (Con, Chantonbury) supported the application.

Mr Blackall suggested the location did not have the footfall to support a larger unit, adding: “I think that this may be a compromise from what the community would ideally like but I think it will be a good use of the building.”

But the third councillor for the area Philip Circus had a differing opinion.

He said: “I tend to the view, and it might be considered eccentric, that promises should be kept unless there is a very good reason not to keep those promises. We are being asked to depart from the promises that we made to the people of Thakeham.”

Mr Circus described being ‘not convinced’ by the current evidence in front of them and proposed the committee defer the application so the council could receive an independent professional opinion.

This was soundly defeated and the committee then approved the application by 13 votes to one, with four abstentions.

David Coldwell (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote) said: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”