Supermarket’s designs on historic pub in East Wittering

One resident provided the Observer with this photo of the pub in 1924
One resident provided the Observer with this photo of the pub in 1924

MIXED views have been voiced over plans to demolish an historic pub and replace it with a modern Co-op superstore.

Plans for the change in East Wittering were met with a mix of views as 400 residents turned up to a public consultation on the plans this week.

Plans for the new Co-op building on the site of the Royal Oak pub

Plans for the new Co-op building on the site of the Royal Oak pub

Jim Steel, who lives in the village, remembers the Royal Oak pub when his grandfather ran it.

He said, although there is a grey area when estimating the age of the pub, he thinks it is at least 300 years old.

His grandfather Albert Steel ran the pub from 1912, and it stayed in the family until 1954.

“It was a thriving pub, the hub of the village. But it’s popularity waned over the years,” he said.

“I will be very sad to see it go, but if it has to go, let’s have something practical and aesthetically pleasing. We have to move a bit with the times.”

Mr Steel said he ‘did not dislike’ the Co-op’s plans for the site.

There were others who were not so keen on the plans, including HE Osborne who commented on the Co-op’s website, and said: “Have just reviewed the plans and feel the design of the unit is totally unacceptable for the village.

“It looks huge and so modern, we are NOT Chichester – we are 
East Wittering.

“Also, if your lorries are planning to stop in the lay-by outside for off-loading they will then have to drive through the village as they will be unable to turn around.

“Having seen the size of many of your delivery vehicles, how exactly will that impact our little parade and how will they cope getting out of the junction to the west of the village by the health centre?”

Ted Merdler, head of brand engagement for the Southern Co-operative, was at the consultation.

“Many people, including our current customers, were in favour of the proposal, but some people were disappointed that Enterprise Inns had decided to close the pub and sell it as a site for possible redevelopment,” he said.

The proposed supermarket would be less than a tenth of the size of the Sainsbury’s superstore in Chichester and would have parking for around 40 cars.

At the consultation, representatives from the Co-op said the car park could be used for the benefit of the whole village, not just the supermarket, and there would be no charge for using the car park.

The new store would also create ten to 25 new jobs.

Kelly Hinshelwood is store manager of the current Co-op in East Wittering.

Explaining the need for a move, she said: “We simply don’t have enough space to meet local demand.

“A new store will give us more space so that we can offer a bigger range of products, especially fresh and local food and will ensure that we can offer a much better service including improved parking facilities.”

A formal application is likely to be submitted to Chichester District Council this month.

Visit www.thesouthernco-operative.co.uk to comment on the plans.