Plans for Midhurst Waitrose spark online debate

The Grange Leisure Centre, Midhurst
The Grange Leisure Centre, Midhurst

THE revelation that supermarket giant Waitrose could open a store at the site of the Grange has caused great debate in the community.

The news, reported in last week’s Observer, has sparked a debate on social media website Facebook, with some deeming it ‘excellent news’ and others lamenting a possible loss of trade.

Following our article, the Midhurst, West Sussex, Facebook page asked its visitors for their views on a new superstore.

But opinion was torn between the convenience of having a supermarket in Midhurst, and the potentially negative effect it could have upon existing businesses.

While some users said: ‘Yes please! I shop in Haslemere and I would much rather shop at home’, and ‘it means more jobs which is never a bad thing for any town’, others have expressed concerns at the bid.

“More jobs? And what about the job losses, from the closed independent shops, their suppliers and the transporters? The net job gains, if any, would be minuscule,” posted one resident.

Another Facebook user added: “I would welcome a Sainsbury’s in Midhurst. With the money I would save by not having to go to Chichester every week, I would have more to spend on clothing, hardware, specialist food, eating out and books in our wonderful local shops.”

The debate also spread to Twitter where one user said: “We’ve already got one over-priced supermarket with Budgens. Why does a town our size need three supermarkets?”

A spokesman for Waitrose said: “We have always been keen to have a shop in Midhurst and are continuing to discuss a proposal with the developer who is one of three parties short-listed to buy the site.

“However the timescale and selection details are a matter for Chichester District Council, who we understand will take advice from South Downs National Park Authority in their role as planning authority.”

The supermarket has submitted a ‘pre-planning inquiry’ to the SDNPA. Both Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer are also believed to be vying to open in Midhurst.

All three supermarkets have been asked to go through the pre-planning process as a ‘scoping exercise’ to find out what stipulations there might be.

There is currently permission for 14 homes on the site.