MP NICK Gibb has urged Morrisons to walk away from its controversial store plans in Aldwick.
Mr Gibb said the retailer should abandon its intention to create an M Local convenience outlet in the empty Ship Inn.
“My own view, given the strength of opinion in Aldwick, and given the very different character a convenience store would give to that part of Aldwick from what was an old-world pub, Morrisons should re-think this particular addition to their store portfolio and withdraw their application,” he said.
He made his comments after a showdown between Morrisons and the Friends of the Ship Inn.
He chaired last Friday’s session which led to what he described as a ‘frank exchange’ of views.
“Morrisons was left in no doubt about the strength of opinion and the content of that opinion on this matter,” he said.
“What people want is a well-run pub with good food serving that area.”
Mr Gibb, the Tory MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, said the meeting focused on matters such as road safety, the noise of the proposed freezers and the amount of traffic which would be generated by the new store.
“Morrisons was told the 500-plus name petition about their application to Arun District Council last month was a very large number for this kind of scheme,” he said.
As reported, Morrisons wants to change the use of the Aldwick Street building, closed since April, from a pub to a shop, build an extension to its eastern side and alter the car park.
The application was put on hold by Arun last month to enable a road safety audit for the proposed crossing arrangement by Morrisons to be assessed.
The matter is due to be debated again at December’s meeting of the council’s development control committee.
Friends’ chairman Dr Roger Beam said the group expected to present the committee’s members with more clear proof of the opposition to the plans.
Dr Beam said: “We intend to step up our campaign by organising the largest petition Aldwick has ever seen.
“We are putting to everybody the proposition: ‘I, an Aldwick resident, want to see the Ship Inn maintained as a pub and not converted into a convenience store’.”
Both sides remained far apart after the meeting, he said. “It’s fair to say there was no meeting of minds and the exchange was robust,” said Dr Beam.
“We said the overwhelming feeling in Aldwick was we wanted the Ship Inn back in operation and Morrisons out. The Ship Inn has been on the same site for 200 years.”
The matter of the external building work taking place before planning approval was granted, along with the proposed road crossing which the group has called highly dangerous was raised by the Friends
Morrisons failed to comment on the talks but it is believed the road safety audit has been completed.