Midhurst estate agent expansion will result in the loss of a shop

DESPITE concerns from its own economic development service, plans to turn a shop in Midhurst into an estate agency have been given the go ahead by Chichester District Council (CDC).

The planning committee has given the go ahead for Southdown Property Solutions to expand into the shop at Sussex House on the corner of West Street and Red Lion Street.

The estate agents will also keep their current head office at Capron House, in North Street,

A spokesman said the economic development service did not support the change of use.

“A1 units are currently highly sought after in Midhurst with a vacancy rate of 4.2 per cent which is substantially better than the national and regional vacancy rates of 10.8 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively.

“This shop was until recently occupied. It is also in a good location close to the Market Square which is progressively bringing more customers to this area of the town centre.”

Midhurst Town Council objected saying there was a continued demand for retail space in the town.

But in support, Jonathan Russell, chief executive of the Cowdray Estate which owns the freehold of the property, said Southdown Property Solutions was a business seeking to expand and have a shop front presence.

He refuted the claim there was continued demand for shop space saying there were a large number of retail premises vacant and available in the town - nine when he wrote his letter of support to CDC’s planning committee.

“As such whilst the economy is improving the market is by no means strong and the fact this particular property has not been vacant for long is not a reason to object to a local business expanding.”

Planning consultants for the estate agents said the change of use would in no way alter the appearance or character of the listed building.

The previous tenant was ‘Josephine’s Interiors’ but business owner Josie Fowler gave up after just over a year saying the unit was not viable.

“Part of the reason was due to the lack of foot fall in the area and also parking restrictions.”

The planning committee approved the proposal on the recommendation of its officers who said they did not believe it would have a detrimental impact on the vitality and viability of Midhurst town centre.