Morrisons to pump millions into Bognor Regis

Morrisons is set to spend millions of pounds boosting Bognor Regis town centre.

The Observer can reveal that the supermarket operator is planning to transform its Bedford Street store.

The company is looking to submit a formal planning application for the major scheme soon and has begun talks with Arun District Council about its intentions.

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Any improvements are certain to add to the 170 jobs at the store which already make it easily the biggest town centre employer.

Bognor Regis Chamber of Commerce secretary Stephanie Bayley said Morrisons' plans were good news for a town still reeling from the closure of Woolworths.

"Morrisons, at the moment, is a bit hidden between the precinct and the Queensway. Anything to give it more presence can only be good for the company and the town. It's the only major supermarket we have in the town centre.

"If it is improved, it will provide more competition to Tesco. That has to be good news because it will encourage more people to do their shopping in the town centre. The better and bigger Morrisons is, the more that will happen," she stated.

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"Other nearby shops will benefit as well because people who pop into Morrisons can go round to them buying bits and pieces as well. I did that on Monday and I am sure other people do the same.

"Everyone will gain the more that happens."

Morrisons' hopes are contained in a letter from the firm's planning agent, Leeds-based Peacock and Smith, to the district council.

This says Morrisons is keen to turn the Bognor outlet, with its total ground-floor space of 31,538sq ft, into a flagship store now its 2005 takeover of Safeway has fully settled down.

"While our client is pleased about the performance of the store since the conversion, the constraints of the Safeway format have increasingly become evident as the store has become more popular," the letter comments. "Problems include the shortage of display space and warehouse space, the lack of a store cafe and the appearance and positioning of the store relative to the town centre generally.

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"These constraints prevent Morrisons from offering customers the same quality main food offering that is available in modern, purpose built Morrisons stores.

"Accordingly, Morrisons now wishes to carry out a programme of major investment at the Bognor store which will result in the provision of a larger, more attractive store with improved links to the town centre and the surrounding area.

"This will have major benefits for the existing customers and the image of, and activity within, the town centre as a whole."

But Peacock and Smith warns the arrival of Sainsbury's '“ with an out of town branch with 55,000sq ft of selling space '“ could cause Morrisons to think again.

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