Question mark still hanging over the future of Fittleworth village shop

THE future of Fittleworth village shop was top of the agenda at the latest meeting of the parish council.

Despite plans by the new owner to reopen the shop it was revealed it may go back on the market.

Around 20 villagers turned out to hear what the future held for the shop and post office which closed in February, 2011, following the death of shopkeeper Diane Newsom.

The premises were eventually bought by Robert Hastings who had plans to turn them into an antiques shop and a combined café-delicatessen with inside seating for some ten to 12 people.

Mr Hastings told parish councillors of his frustration over the delay in opening his new business.

He told the meeting the delay was partly due to problems with gaining planning permission from Chichester District Council and also because of serious family illness.

He said he had carried out ‘considerable refurbishment’ and was now looking at several options to get the business up and running but he warned he might also consider putting it back on the market.

In the meantime, he said he was aiming to open the antiques business this month with the delicatessen following in about five to six weeks time, possibly employing local people on a part-time basis.

He said he was aware it was an emotive issue and the village wanted another general store but he believed with two major supermarkets only a few miles away at Pulborough, he needed to offer ‘something different’.

He told the meeting he intended to stock deli-style foods, and maybe wines and beers, together with basic essentials such as bread and toiletries.

He could provide newspapers to order but did not want to become a newsagent as there were insufficient profit margins.

Mr Hastings said he believed a full post office in Fittleworth was not viable but would consider allowing someone else to run a post office facility selling stamps and dealing with mail.

Villagers said they felt the shop, if sold, should remain a retail outlet.

Mr Hastings told them he was still in contact with the owner of the Graffham store who made an offer two years ago.

But he would have to decide what to do, although he was “very willing to listen to suggestions and would welcome any approaches.”