Fittleworth villagers concerned over loss of shop

Ian and Di Newsom pictured at their village stores in 2008
Ian and Di Newsom pictured at their village stores in 2008

A STORM of protest has erupted in Fittleworth over plans to turn the former village shop and post office into an antiques shop and delicatessen.

Discussing a planning application to partially change the use of the old shop in Lower Street and make alterations, members of Fittleworth Parish Council said they were dismayed the planned use of the premises deprived the village of the general shop and post office, which had been operating there until February 2011.

“The lack of a shop for over two years has deprived the village of a centre of commercial and social interaction,” they said in their letter of objection to Chichester District Council (CDC).

“It has led to some elderly residents moving away.

“We understand offers were made to buy these premises for use as a village shop and post office but were rejected.”

Susan Kitchener, of Greatpin Croft, is one of many villagers concerned about the loss.

In a letter objecting to the plans she said: “I have been a Fittleworth resident for over 50 years and I am saddened at the proposals for an antiques shop and cafe.

David and Bridget Connell added: “The result of this change in business and reduction in scale robs the village of the very essence of a village shop.”

They said the shop sold a range of provisions and was used by villagers, pensioners, commuters and schoolchildren, as well as visitors from neighbouring villages.

“The temporary loss of these amenities has had a noticeably adverse impact on the social life of the village and we would argue this will not re restored by the business now proposed.”

Following the concerns, CDC planning officer Naomi Langford asked for more information, pointing out the council’s economic development team shared the concerns expressed and stressing planning policy supported community facilities and advised against their loss.

In answer, Brian Woods, managing director for WS Planning and Architecture, acting for the applicant, said the premises was first marketed in July 2011 with a price guide of £395,000, later reduced to £375,000.

There were eight offers, two of which were rejected on price.

Three were from people wanting to run a village shop: “These were all rejected on price, although the last offer was very close to an acceptable figure. The agents asked this party to provide proof of funding but this was never produced.”

Two further offers were then received; one withdrew and Mr Woods’ client’s offer was accepted.

There was another party who expressed interest on behalf of a ‘village group’. But no offer was made and later it said it was not in a position to make one.