MORRISONS has been urged to get on with its plans to nearly double its presence in Bognor Regis town centre.
The national retailer is fast running out of time to implement its proposal for a new store.
The company has just four months to either start work on the £20m scheme or submit a new application to keep the planning permission for the store alive.
A failure to act by the deadline will mean the company having to go through the entire application process again – or stick with its current outlet.
Bognor Regis Chamber of Commerce chairman and president Nick Stuart-Nicolson said the town had waited long enough for Morrisons to make a move.
“We are a town in waiting, but businesses are suffering,” he said.
“Their owners don’t know whether to invest or not because a larger Morrisons would make a busier town.”
It was in April 2011 that Morrisons’ plans for a new store were backed by Arun district councillors.
The company’s intention to replace its existing shop on Bedford Street with a three-storey store of 32,050sq ft on the current store car park was widely supported.
The councillors’ decision was followed by the formal granting of planning permission by the council on May 24 once a detail about the building’s roof had been resolved.
But the first condition of the approval was the need to start work within three years.
Mr Stuart-Nicolson said it was essential Morrisons had a sizeable presence in central Bognor.
“Morrisons is an anchor tenant in the town centre.
“The town centre has to have national stores like that to have any chance of survival as shopping habits change. People expect to see them in a town centre.
“Supermarkets in town centres are a real benefit for the area, particularly for people who can’t or don’t want to travel to an out-of-town store.
“Morrisons never really talk to anybody, but I think they are playing a waiting game,” he said.
Mr Stuart-Nicolson said uncertainty about Morrisons was added to the unknowns which surrounded the St Modwen proposals to regenerate the town centre.
The company was given until the end of this year by Arun to produce firm plans.
Few exact details are known about the £40m proposals so far, but the latest idea for the Hothamton car park included a 15,000sq ft food store.
“It could be Morrisons are waiting to see what happens to that proposal,” said Mr Stuart-Nicolson.
“I would imagine that might have a big effect on their thinking, but no-one in the town knows. But they really need to talk to us.”
Morrisons failed to respond to the Observer about its plans, but it previously said the proposals were complicated and would take time to finalise.