Customers voice mixed views over controversial Waitrose expansion

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SHOPPERS at Storrington’s Waitrose have mixed views on plans to expand it but are all agreed on one thing - they love the store and the wonderful staff there.

The County Times interviewed a random selection of shoppers there on Thursday afternoon.

Some were delighted at the plans to make it bigger. Others feared it might become too big.

Lesley Egan, 52, lives in Billingshurst but works in Storrington and Pulborough.

She said: “These big stores just seem to take over. I don’t think it is a good idea, you just need to look at what the supermarkets have done to Pulborough, it is full of empty shops.

“I personally don’t see why they need to make it bigger.”

Ashington resident Rosemary Goodwin, 64, felt that it would be a good thing for it to expand if it meant more products.

She occasionally shops at the store in Worthing, saying it has a lot more to offer than the one in Storrington.

However, she did add that she would probably feel differently if she lived in the village and it had a direct impact on her.

All the people The County Times spoke said they have shopped in the store since it opened in March 2010.

Mr R King, 67, from Storrington felt that the plans were not 100 per cent ready and some issues needed to be looked at.

He added that he felt it wasn’t a complete plan and the size of the store would ‘overwhelm’ the village.

Noreen Gazey from Thakeham can see both sides of the argument. She said: “It will be good if it expanded, but I don’t think the coffee shop is a good idea.

“I have lived here for 30 years and feel the coffee shop would impact the cafes on the high street.”

She added that she likes Waitrose and it would be good to have more choice in the store and that the staff were ‘lovely’. She also said that it would be a good idea if it means more offers and lower prices.

Gavin Tearle, 34, and Di Walker, 56 both from Storrington, feel it is a good idea for it to get bigger.

Other people also commented on the fact that it isn’t until you go to larger stores that you realise how small the one in Waitrose is.

This is a point which manager Fran Siwicka said people make to her on a daily basis.

She said that people come into the store looking for offers to products they have seen in the larger stores which are not available in Storrington. She said: “I don’t think it is fair that our customers do not receive the full service Waitrose has to offer.”

Ms Siwicka said that on Saturday the store is at full capacity, meaning all the tills are open, however customers are sometimes queuing to the back of the store and having to wait to be served, which is not in line with Waitrose policy.

There is also the issue of the car park filling up quickly, which would be relieved if the two level car park of the application was allowed.

The County Times put the fears in relation to the coffee shop to property and development communications manager James Armstrong and Ms Siwicka.

They explained that it would not be a ‘destination’ cafe, somewhere you would plan to have lunch with your friends, but would be somewhere you could either grab a coffee while you did you shopping or could have a quick drink.

They also wanted to stress that the car park would not be an above-ground two storey structure but would include a part underground with the top level about a metre high.

Mr Armstrong said: “We are taking advantage of the natural slope of the car park so it wouldn’t be too high off the ground.”

Ms Siwicka explained that they did not want to upset those from the village as they were the store’s future customers and staff - if the application goes ahead the store will be able to employee 80 more people.

Mr Armstrong confirmed that Waitrose wanted to have a store in Storrington for a long time due to its ‘stunning location’ and doing something which would harm the village would not be of benefit to anyone, especially the store itself.

To view the plans visit: http://public-access.horsham.gov./public-access/ and enter reference DC/11/2334.