FEARS have been voiced that Midhurst may not get a prime supermarket after the break down of talks with Waitrose.
Concerns have been raised after news Chichester District Council’s (CDC) negotiations with Kimberley Developments have failed and the former Grange Leisure centre site in Bepton Road is back on the market.
Earlier this year, Waitrose announced it had been forced to rethink its original plans because the supermarket sector was facing ‘changes in trading conditions’.
And it seems Kimberley Developments were not prepared to pay CDC an acceptable price for the site.
“Our priority is that we achieve best value for our taxpayers and so are looking to actively remarket the site in the new year,” said cabinet member of commercial services Cllr Gillian Keegan.
But there are fears the council may have missed the supermarket boat altogether and could lose even more money on the site.
A respected Midhurst planning consultant told the Observer: “The Grange site was always going to be difficult when compared to other sites.
“Remarketing means the council can expect offers even less than those put forward so far, and if these still do not satisfy their expectations then that could be the end of any possible supermarket on that site.”
He added: “When this whole process started nearly three years ago there was a real demand for a supermarket on that site.”
But he said times had changed and more people shopping online had affected the viability of supermarket stores.
“The delay in Kimberley coming up with an acceptable scheme has meant the value of the site has dropped,” said the consultant.
“And with each month that passes not only does the site value continue to go down, but so does any supermarkets’ confidence in Chichester District Council.”
Waitrose, however, has stressed it is still keen to open in Midhurst: “We had been working hard with the council to deliver the store on a revised basis. Despite the best endeavours of everyone concerned, we have not been able to reach a new agreement.
“The developer, Kimberley, has therefore withdrawn its original offer and we are reviewing the scheme again. We will continue discussions with both the council and Kimberley with the aim of finding a solution that will enable us to progress.
“We understand the continued delay may cause some disappointment, but like any business we must respond to these changes to ensure that the scheme has a commercial future.”
Chairman of Midhurst Town Team Geoff Allnutt continued to stress the importance of a new supermarket to traders: “The town desperately needs one and traders would like to see one built as soon as possible.”
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