Co-op accused of ‘shop blocking’ in Petworth

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The Co-op supermarket has been accused of ‘shop blocking’ in Petworth after its plans to move to bigger premises across the road appear to have stalled.

The supermarket has held a lease on the former antiques shop, Swan House in Market Square for nearly three years.

Planning permission was refused in April 2014 on the grounds they would be detrimental to the listed building.

And despite repeated promises by Co-op spokesmen that a revised application to address planning concerns was imminent, it has not yet been submitted.

Town council chairman Chris Kemp added: “We are talking about at least 3000 square metres of retail space sitting empty for three years, there is next to no other retail space in the town and they are basically shop blocking.”

Now Petworth Town Council’s planning committee has instead received plans for Co-op signage at Swan House.

There was added confusion, chairman of the committee Rob Evans told fellow town councillors at a full town council debate, after a ‘mysterious meeting’ had been held in The Leconfield Hall at the end of May at which Co-op head office staff were reported to have told customers the supermarket was no longer planning the move.

“The planning committee believes we should kick this up a gear and get pretty stroppy.”

“We propose sending the Co-op a letter formally saying we believe the situation is having a detrimental effect on the whole of that area of Petworth. It is our responsibility to encourage the competitiveness of Petworth and they have done us no favours, in fact they are damaging the town.”

He said he was pretty certain another business could be found to ‘fill the void’ adding “I don’t think we should be frightened, we want to voice our discontent.”

He said he had worked out in terms of outgoings at Swan House the Co-op had spent between £500,000-£600,000.

“This is money paid in rent and fees for nearly three years and they haven’t sold one can of baked beans and are still no further forward,” said Mr Evans.

A spokesman for the Co-op said: “We are in the process of finalising our plans and will be submitting a planning application imminently.”

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