When the green light was given for the New Monks Farm development in Lancing on February 5, no-one could have predicted the cataclysmic events just around the corner.
There were already question marks around IKEA’s involvement and the current economic uncertainty has only added to the concerns.
But despite the confusion, here is everything we know so far about the plans for Sussex’s first IKEA superstore.
What are the plans?
New Monks Farm, a patch of land west of Shoreham Airport near the Mash Barn estate in Lancing, had been given planning permission for an IKEA superstore and 600 homes.
The development will entail the resituation of travellers who currently live on the Withy Patch Gypsy and Travellers’ site – they will be uprooted from their homes and moved to a new site on the edge of the construction area.
A country park will also be built, as well as a water pumping station put in to allay fears over flooding.
Developer The Community Stadium Ltd has also agreed to construct a new roundabout on the A27 to replace the Sussex Pad traffic lights.
What about the children?
A major battleground between campaigners and the developer was the contribution of funds towards a new primary school.
West Sussex County Council had asked for a contribution of £3.2million towards a school, with a further £2.8million to come from an impending housing development in West Sompting.
A failure to reach an agreement with The Community Stadium Ltd was viewed as one of the main roadblocks to permission being signed off.
But the Section 106 agreement revealed the developer has agreed to contribute £3,618,650 to the education provision – more than requested.
It will be paid in two equal instalments, on or before the occupation of the 200th and 400th homes.
The developer will transfer part of the site for the county council to build the school and, if it is not completed within seven years, the council must repay the education contribution.
As part of the agreement, the developer will also pay a £60,928 library contribution, £5,801 towards the fire service, £500,000 towards healthcare and a £109,359.31 contribution to the police.
Cycle and pedestrian links will also be developed to the tune of £100,000, as fears over travel infrastructure are addressed.
How long will it all take?
There was an element of clarity around timescales when the plans were first agreed, but of course that is now all up in the air.
Work had started in February, with housing developer CALA homes making progress on the first tranche of properties.
But limits have been placed on the number of homes that can be occupied without certain criteria being met.
For example, no more than 60 can be occupied until improvements have been made to the Grinstead Lane approach to the A27, which connect at the Manor Roundabout.
No more than 249 homes can be occupied, nor the IKEA superstore, until improvements to the Sussex Pad traffic lights, A27, Grinstead Lane and Manor Roundabout have been completed, to limit congestion.
Improvements to the A27 are key to the next stage of the development, but these cannot begin until residents of the Withy Patch gypsy and traveller site are relocated to a new larger site on the outskirts of New Monks Farm.
That was set to happen at the end of 2020, but that is no longer the case.
Whenever work begins, motorists will face at least 12 months of travel disruption from roadworks at the already congested trunk road. In theory, the renovations should help to ease traffic congestion in the long run, but the construction phase is sure to pose challenges, particularly during rush hour.
It is also likely to place extra strain on surrounding roads, such as the seafront A259 and connecting roads like Grinstead Lane through Lancing.
In June, a spokesman for The Community Stadium Ltd said work would resume as soon as Government regulations allowed.
A month later, flood defences along the River Adur were torn down and replaced with temporary measures as work began on the new pumping station.
The constant delays and economic pressure have led to fears IKEA could pull out, particularly given its shift to a focus on online sales.
In June, a spokesman for the company said work was ‘rightly suspended’ for the pandemic and it would keep the community updated with its plans as work on the site progresses.
When the plans were first fully approved, the potential timeline looked like this:
March 2020 - CALA Homes commence construction of show areas
Later this year - First homes ready for occupation, but no more than 60 until Grinstead Lane is improved and no more than 249 until A27 work is completed
End of this year - Work begins on improvements to the A27, including a new roundabout, with the project expected to take around a year
End of 2021 - IKEA can open its superstore and the second tranche of homes (250+) can be occupied
Is it over-simplifying it to just add seven months onto each date and take that as the new timeline? Probably. But clearly Sussex cannot expect its first IKEA to arrive within the next 12 to 18 months.
Work is ongoing, although it is by no means a foregone conclusion that the Swedish furniture giant will ever arrive.
Read more about the ever-evolving saga here:
All you need to know about the IKEA decision meetingNew Monks Farm: Agreement reveals primary school funding, major roadworks and moreThis is when Lancing’s IKEA could open, how long the A27 work will take and when the homes will be finishedNew Monks Farm: Council under fire for selling land at undervalue to IKEA site developersDeveloper gives update on New Monks Farm IKEA development after construction haltedNew Monks Farm: Adur tidal walls demolished as work ramps up on IKEA development