MARKS and Spencer has received planning approval to return to Bognor Regis.
The retailer’s intention to open a Simply Food branch on the Arun Retail Park has been backed by Arun District Council.
A council planning officer, Cian Cronin, has also approved the arrival of Next in the adjoining unit at the Shripney Road site.
Both buildings need changes, such as extensions, the occupiers require. The arrival has been welcomed by Councillor Jeanette Warr.
She led a campaign to improve Bognor when M&S closed its London Road branch in August 1990.
She said: “I’m ecstatic M&S are coming back. That will benefit the town and will, hopefully, draw some customers to the town centre.
“People are not going to go to Marks to do some of their shopping and then another town to do the rest. I believe M&S will open next March.”
M&S will be moving into the former Comet branch which has been empty since December 2012.
Next will occupy the Kwik-Fit premises after the auto business has moved across Shripney Road.
Both retailers needed a change of use of the premises as well as permission for the various alterations which will be carried out before their arrival. The changes include a side extension of 177.1 sq m for the new Next store and an extra 820.7sq m mezzanine floorspace. A small increase in floorspace for M&S will be built.
In his report, Mr Cronin says the new stores will help to improve the image and perception of Bognor as a place for business.
He states: “The proposed development will ensure investment is made on the existing retail park to update the premises to the modern standards expected by retailers and customers.
“The changes to the elevations of the buildings will improve the aesthetic appearance of the area for the long-term future.
“It is considered that the proposal will contribute to improving the character of this key approach to Bognor, replacing units that are currently tired and dated.
“Taken along with the new Sainsbury’s opposite, the proposed development would contribute to establishing a modern and attractive gateway to the town.”
The council’s retail consultant has concluded the new stores would take away 4.8 per cent of annual spending from Bognor town centre. But that was not enough to warrant refusal. The scheme was also unlikely to deter future investment in the shopping area.
Arun has placed conditions on its approval to limit the goods to the appropriate ranges the new stores can sell to stop them drawing too much trade away from existing stores.
Arun’s retail consultant, DPDS, has assessed the Next store will generate £5.02m of annual sales and £8.52m for M&S. Morrisons raised concerns about the stores.