Fears new Ridgewood store will force Post Office to close

Highlands Inn
Highlands Inn

Ridgewood residents and a community store boss have hit out at plans to open a Morrisons Local store on land at the Highlands Inn.

Sue Gothard, who runs the Ridgewood sub Post Office and Stores with husband Jon, said: “They say it won’t hurt our business as it is too far away but we know when there’s a special offer on bread or milk in the town as our sales drop.

“If our store goes, so will the Post Office. They use the words ‘community store’ but we offer people a full service, such as the ability to make bookings at the village hall. All they will aim to do is make profits for the supermarket.”

Peter Gibbins, from Ridgewood, said: “John and Sue work their socks off on our behalf. It would be a tragedy if the store was to close. I urge everyone to express their views to Wealden District Council as soon as possible.”

A detailed planning application has been lodged with Wealden District Council to build the new store on land immediately to the north of the Highlands Inn.

Documents before planners show a 390 square metre (gross) single-storey building with 298 square metres of retail space. There would be 11 standard and three disabled parking spaces and four spaces for bikes.

Cars would get in from Eastbourne Road and there will be wheelchair access via automatic doors. The site would be covered by CCTV inside and out. The building itself would be created from local vernacular materials including a tiled roof, wooden boarding and brick with landscaping around the site.

The proposal overview described the provision of a new, quality, local needs convenience store to ‘more efficiently use an underused brownfield site,’ and provide a ‘high quality development’ alongside the provision of new jobs. It will also result in reduced nitrogen emissions by reducing car journeys to top up shopping further afield, ‘according with the Council’s aspirations to protect Ashdown Forest.’

Consultants Signet, on behalf of pub owners, The Spirit Pub Company and PH Land and Developments, said local people were informed about the scheme, with 487 leaflets and an exhibition at the Highlands Inn in February.

But Sue Gothard exclaimed: “Many people are in favour of the scheme and we have never said people must object, contrary to what the company might think. But we find local residents do not want this store. If we have to close our jobs will go and so would the jobs of our staff and paperboys.”