Thumbs down to Ridgewood store scheme

Highlands Inn car park. Photo by Ron Hill
Highlands Inn car park. Photo by Ron Hill

Supermarket group Morrisons has been told it cannot build a store next to the Highlands Inn, Ridgewood.

When the plan was submitted earlier this year, objections poured into both Uckfield Town and Wealden District councils.

People were concerned a new store could herald the closure of the popular Ridgewood Post Office. And they feared increased traffic at an already congested road junction could pose a danger to passing vehicles and people on foot.

Now Wealden councillors have refused consent for the store and it looks unlikely that Morrisons will appeal the judgement or come back with an amended proposal.

Council members took account of concerns expressed by Uckfield town councillors who strongly recommended that the proposal should be refused. As the supermarket would have been flanked by two major roads, they feared it would be too close to a busy roundabout where traffic backs up at peak times. They also did not feel there was enough parking space close to the store and pub or room for vehicles servicing the store to manoeuvre safely.

Other concerns focused on setting a precedent for out-of-town retail use, loss of perceived ‘openness’ on the site and the design proposal for the new store.

Many objectors cited the ‘no build’ policy within seven kilometres of the Ashdown Forest although applicants said the scheme ‘would not increase recreational use on the Forest.’ And they dismissed people’s concerns about the potential Post Office closure saying people who wanted to keep it open would continue to shop there.

The decision to refuse consent was welcomed with delight by Post Office bosses Sue and John Gothard. The couple had expressed real fears retail business would leach away, forcing the Post Office to close.

Sue said: “I want to say a huge thank you to all the people who gave up their time to support us. We were overwhelmed. Several people went to the meeting.

“John attended to express our views but we are clear the reason it was refused was nothing to do with the Post Office. The first thing he said was that he spoke as a resident as well as a local business - people forget we live above the shop.

“We were negotiating to become a Post Office Local but had put dealings on hold while we waited for this decision. We are now moving forward. The best news is that Wealden made it clear this is the end - it was very much ‘don’t bother coming back fellas!’”