Abingworth Shop Update

After HDC Development Committee South meeting of 16 April

At this meeting, District Councillors voted 12-1 (4 abstentions) to approve the proposal to amend the use of the Abingworth shop building to accommodate both a village store and a veterinary surgery (plus split of flat above into two units).  Although objectors argued for delay for a further independent marketing exercise to seek a retailer who would take on the full current floor area, a majority of Committee members accepted the planning officer view that there was already sufficient evidence that this would be unproductive, and that the community would be better-served by approving the

amended-use proposal and moving as quickly as possible to enable the two tenants who have already committed to open their businesses.

The HDC planning officer’s full report can be read via the link below, but in summary it recommended support for the proposal on the grounds that:

  • Sufficient evidence had been presented that a village store at this location will have best prospect of operating successfully if it is based in about half of the available floorspace of this building;
  • Although reduced, the proposed shop floor space remains on a par with established and successful local shops in West Chiltington and Fittleworth. The prospective shop tenant has committed to carrying a suitable range of goods, and to adjust that range to customer demands over time;
  • The use of the other half of the building as a veterinary surgery brings the community another service and should present no amenity disbenefits to neighbours. In particular, the potential concern regarding noise disturbance had been satisfactorily addressed by a combination of physical design and opening hours restrictions;
  • Central Thakeham needs a shop as soon as possible to complement the other new Abingworth community facilities and create – as intended by original development permissions – a new hub for the village.
  • The proposal, which includes two committed prospective tenants, offers ready deliverability. Whereas, refusal implies further considerable delay to re-market the full floor-space, with no reason to expect that process to secure a different and viable tenancy outcome.

A large majority of District Councillors agreed with these arguments, and their decision gels with the view taken by the Parish’s planning committee in December 2018.  The PC has been very aware that there have been many resident objections to these proposals, but its position has remained guided by the evidence, and a focus on delivering a sustainable arrangement for this important building, to offer the community good services, without further long delays.

Prior to HDC Development Committee South meeting of 16 April

Following submission of formal application DC/18/2594 in December 2018, the Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Planning Committee of 17 December considered the issues and decided, for reasons set out in minute 458 of that meeting, to return a NO OBJECTION response to HDC.  After further iteration of these proposals between HDC planners and the applicant, HDC’s Development Committee (South) is now due to consider DC/18/2594 at its meeting of 16 April 2019.  The officer report to the Committee recommends approval.