Pret expansion may be blocked by Chichester retail rule

Pret A Manger interior SUS-161130-135533001
Pret A Manger interior SUS-161130-135533001

Pret-A-Manger in East Street has been advised it may not be able to expand because Chichester city centre has exceeded its non-retail limit.

Planning policy states non-retail usage, such as for cafés, restaurants and offices, must not take up more than 25 per cent of the shop frontage in the city’s central shopping streets.

But with Caffé Nero set to open its second shop in North Street, Chichester District Council officers have cast doubt on Pret’s plan to expand its East Street premises into the space next door left by jewellery store Pia.

Caffé Nero’s store was given permission in November for mixed retail use (A1) and café usage (A3), pushing the retail balance for Chichester just over the 25 per cent mark.

In an email to Pret’s planning agent, included as part of the application on the council’s planning portal (reference 17/03164/FUL) a district council officer wrote: “On balance, it was considered Caffé Nero[‘s] change of use from under 25% to slightly over 25% would be acceptable given that the proposed new use incorporated A1 and A3, accounting for the slight discrepancy in that one application.

“Now we are over the maximum permitted shop frontage non-A1, further loss of retail provision in the city would conflict directly with planning policy and would not be supported.”

The officer also expressed doubts that Pret’s shop could be classed as part-retail usage, as Caffé Nero’s had been, adding that it was a ‘fundamental issue of principle’ and it would be necessary to refuse the application.

As a result of looking into the case, the council is also starting an enquiry into Pret’s current usage, which appears to be incorrect, the email also states.

Pret’s agent responded: “It is disappointing to see the assessment of vitality and viability of the city centre turns on such a strict interpretation of thresholds identified within policy.”

A decision has not been published on the application.

The Observer did a survey last year of shop usage in the city centre.

As of January 2018, 25.23 per cent of the primary shopping frontage was in non-retail use.

In the secondary shopping frontage 53.7 per cent was in non-retail use, which is below the permitted level of 75 per cent.