Funds agreed to defend Marks & Spencer foodhall decision

Plans for a new M&S foodhall (photo from Arun District Council's planning portal).
Plans for a new M&S foodhall (photo from Arun District Council's planning portal).

Funds to fight a legal challenge over plans for a new Marks & Spencer foodhall off the A259 have been set aside by council leaders.

The new store and a Toby Carvery pub was granted planning permission for the site in Angmering by Arun District Council’s development control committee in October.

But approval was only given on the chairman’s casting vote and the decision went against the advice of council officers.

The officers had argued the plans failed to meet the sequential test for convenience retail proposals in out-of-centre locations.

Store Property Investments Limited is challenging the council’s decision and has submitted an application for a judicial review, something the council is contesting.

The council’s cabinet agreed to an estimate of up to £150,000 to cover costs of defending the judicial review on Monday (February 11).

John Charles, cabinet member for planning, said costs incurred could vary, as the amount could be used to cover not only the council’s costs but any other costs it might be liable to pay.

Officers said there was ‘positive news’ as a judge had considered the papers of the case and supported the council’s position.

But Store Property is set to have an oral hearing and a decision on whether to allow the judicial review has not been made.

Trevor Bence, cabinet member for residential services, said the socio-economic benefits of a new M&S store was far more important than the sequential test.

M&S secured approval from councillors to build a Simply Food store off the A259 in 2015, but permission was quashed following a judicial review by Store Property, who are landlords of Waitrose in Rustington.

Waitrose left Littlehampton town centre in 2015 – a vacant site also leased by Store Property – which the landlord argues is suitable for M&S.

But M&S has continually dismissed the site, claiming it has ‘significant’ viability issues.

Meanwhile a planning application has recently been received for 83 homes on the vacant former Waitrose site in Littlehampton.