‘Golden opportunity’ to redevelop department store site approved

Martell's department store in East Grinstead. Pic Steve Robards  SR1625296 SUS-160209-154754001
Martell's department store in East Grinstead. Pic Steve Robards SR1625296 SUS-160209-154754001

A ‘golden opportunity’ to redevelop an East Grinstead department store site has been approved by district councillors today (Thursday September 8).

Martell’s planning application to demolish its existing premises and several houses nearby and build new restaurant and retail units along with 129 flats attracted nearly 400 letters of support from residents.

As part of the proposals Martell’s would relocate to another premises in East Grinstead town centre and public realm enhancements would be carried out in an enlarged Queen’s Walk.

The scheme was given the go-ahead by Mid Sussex District Council’s District Planning Committee, overturning the officers’ original recommendation, which had argued that the new building was overdevelopment and would cause harm the nearby listed buildings.

Rex Whittaker, leader of East Grinstead Town Council, said: “Golden opportunities rarely come along but when they do you need to seize the moment.”

He argued that the £22m investment would turn Queen’s Walk into an area to be proud of and would show that ‘East Grinstead is very much open for business’.

Norman Mockford (Con, East Grinstead Town), speaking as the local district council ward member, called it an overdue project and something that was needed to ‘rejuvenate’ the town, while Edward Matthews (Con, Copthorne and Worth) described East Grinstead as a curate’s egg, with some good parts and some that are ‘slowly deteriorating’.

He felt that visitors to the town would see Queen’s Walk as a ‘dump’ and thought the scheme could lead to further regeneration to nearby sites.

Phillip Coote (Con, Crawley Down and Turners Hill) agreed, calling the current site ‘an absolute and utter dump’, as did Margaret Hersey (Con, Lindfield) who added: “It’s totally rubbish, it’s the most awful place.”

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