Here’s why the Rustington out-of-town Marks & Spencer foodhall was approved

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).

A Marks & Spencer foodhall for Rustington was approved last week, but not before dividing councillors on the merits of its out-of-town location.

A hybrid application, seeking full permission for the foodhall and outline permission for a public house on land south of the A259 and east of Brook Lane, was discussed by Arun District Council’s development control committee on Wednesday (October 3).

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).

Officers had recommended plans be refused on the grounds they had failed the sequential test, a planning principle that looks to develop certain types of locations before others.

Guidance suggests available town centre sites should be fully occupied before permission is granted for out-of-town locations.

This is relevant in this case because the former Waitrose site in Littlehampton town centre has stood empty since the supermarket moved to Rustington in 2015.

The committee was split on the application, with the final vote tied at six each, before plans were approved on chairman Richard Bower’s casting vote.

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).

Asking why Marks & Spencer was opposed to using the former Waitrose site, Michael Northeast (Lab, Courtwick with Toddington) said: “We do have a ready built supermarket already there, that is empty at the moment, which could be converted to house this development. It doesn’t need to go on the A259.

“Very often now the A259 from the Body Shop roundabout through down to Wick is at a standstill and we don’t want any more traffic going to another retail outlet on the outskirts of town that is going to add to that amount of traffic that’s going to be there.”

Barbara Oakley (Con, Middleton on Sea) took a pragmatic view of the likelihood of Marks moving into the Waitrose site.

She said: “There is a public demand for Marks & Spencer on this new site.

“We should face the facts. Rather than what we would like to see happen, we’ve got to face the facts as to what would happen.

“And what would happen is that Marks will not move into this. So the sequential test in many ways is useless, because you can only have a sequential tests if both sides agree to accept the answer.”

The application has had a complicated history. The plans were approved in June 2016, but this decision was quashed in February 2017 after a legal challenge.

When the application returned to the committee in May, it was deferred to allow members to visit the site.

Edward Ledwidge, of Montagu Evans, representing the applicant, confirmed Marks & Spencer’s ‘commitment to bring forward this development’.

He highlighted the work that had been done to agree which financial contributions – known as Section 106 agreements – would be given by the applicant.

These included money to help make improvements to the Littlehampton railway crossing and money to help fund a bus service at Rustington.

What do you think of the decision to approve the plans? Email the newsdesk.

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