Now I don’t know about you, but I had the distinct impression that the recent announcement that a Marks & Spencer Food Hall was coming to Sittingbourne was generally very well received. A real positive step in the right direction for once. Surely if Marks & Spencer come to town other retailers are sure to follow.
In fact, some people thought that it was simply too good to be true.
Well it appears that Swale Borough Council wasn’t one of them, and oblivious to the public’s mood, has raised concerns about the impact that such a store would have on the High Street and on their own town centre regeneration plans.
The hypocrisy and double standards which the Borough Council are applying to this application are astounding, especially given that these very same concerns have been levelled at the Council in relation to their own town centre regeneration plans.
Are we really expected to believe that the proposed retail element of The Spirit of Sittingbourne scheme, which is located on the other side of the road, would have no impact on the high street but an M&S Food Hall would be detrimental and not only the High Street, but also to the ultimate businesses whom would occupy these new retail units.
This is utterly absurd.
Marks & Spencer have argued that the Spirit of Sittingbourne proposed new retail units to be located in the Biffa depot are targeted at non-food operators so it would appear that on this point the Council has no case what-so-ever.
With regard to potential harm on existing businesses located in the High Street, all I would say is that if such harm can be proven it would most certainly be applicable to whichever businesses come to occupy the new retail units. Therefore, the Council would essentially be making a case against their own scheme, which is odd given that it already has permission.
Marks & Spencer also allude to the fact that the number of retail units proposed in the Councils own proposals may be about to change to a smaller number and that they are already let.
Marks & Spencer plan to open the new Food Hall which will be located next to Halfords in the Sittingbourne Retail Park in March 2017 and will be creating 55 new full and part time jobs.