Work has started to clear a Horsham site where a John Lewis At Home store and a new Waitrose is set to be built.
As part of Westrock’s £35m redevelopment of the ‘West End’ of the town centre the new retail stores and car park will be built on the former site of Horsham Bowling Club and Lifestyle Ford off Albion Way.
Planning permission was granted for the scheme back in January by Horsham District Council, with councillors hailing the arrival of John Lewis as a ‘big coup for the town’.
Under the proposals the existing Waitrose store in Piries Place will close with staff relocating to the new larger premises.
John Lewis is expected to create 125 new jobs, while Waitrose will relocate its 120 staff and add an extra 50 jobs.
Horsham Bowling Club has moved to a new green and clubhouse at Holbrook Tythe Barn, while Lifestyle Ford is now based off the Farthings Hill roundabout in Broadbridge Heath.
The second part of Westrock’s scheme would see the part demolition and redevelopment of Bishops Weald House to include 53 apartments, two new non-food retail stores and a gym.
While the existing retail stores in Worthing Road, Argos and The Entertainer, are planned to be retained, McDonalds closed its restaurant on the corner of the Bishopric in July after its lease was not renewed.
An application for Bishops Weald House and 17 new residential units on part of the former Lifestyle Ford site was deferred by HDC’s Development Control North Committee earlier this month with many councillors arguing the proposed five-storey building was ‘ugly’ and ‘uninspiring’.
The amount of affordable housing to be provided at 24 per cent, was also raised as a concern by members as it is short of HDC’s current target of 40 per cent.
The decision gives the council and its officers time to discuss the application with Westrock.
Meanwhile HDC announced last week it had appointed consultants to look at the future of the Bishopric area of the town centre.
A spokesperson said: “Work is at a very early stage and the options that are developed will be the subject of a public consultation in the autumn.”
Last week the County Times reported that a straw poll of members of HDC’s Bishopric Enhancement Board on whether the Shelley Fountain should be kept or scrapped saw the majority vote for it to go.
Readers were asked what they thought should be done about the water feature, which is currently not in operation.
On the County Times website user ‘Vwdriver’ wrote: “Yep. It has to go. It’s not attractive in any form. It’s constantly draining council money having it repaired.
“Problem is, what do you replace it with, which is attractive and welcomed by the Horsham residents?”
But user ‘Horsham resident for 35 years’ said: “I think it should stay. I actually like it. Shame that it has failed to work properly or safely, I remember the first winter when the water sprayed everywhere and ice formed in the cold weather making the area very dangerous.
“No reason to scrap it though. There is not much in Horsham to link us with the past. Just needs HDC to look after it with a little more care and attention rather than it always looking like a rubbish tip.”