Branches of Halfords and Pets at Home are set to open in Whitstable after contentious plans for two retailers to move onto a growing retail park were given the green light by councillors.
The city council’s planning committee was considering a recommendation made by officers to accept the new additions to the Prospect Retail Park on Tuesday night.
George Wilson Developments Ltd applied to add two extra stores to the out-of-town site, which already contains an M&S Food, Aldi, and Home Bargains.
Steve Davies, the planning agent for the site, confirmed the stores will probably be home to Halfords and Pets at Home.
The motoring and cycling specialists will relocate from Eddington Lane in Herne Bay after its lease was not renewed.
“The main points I’d like to highlight are that the plans safeguard existing jobs within the district and provide additional employment opportunities,” Mr Davies said.
“Unless Halfords can find a new premises in the local area, existing jobs will be lost.
“Both businesses have been looking for suitable premises locally and found that this proposal provides the solution to their ongoing needs.”
The result has divided opinion, with some residents keen to see new chain stores in the area and others concerned about the impact they may have on local independent trade.
Brian Hitcham, chair of Whitstable Chamber of Commerce, was enraged by the committee’s decision.
“I’m very disappointed because without a doubt it will have a negative impact on the town and I hope it doesn’t regret it over the coming months and years,” he said.
“People will already be going to Prospect Retail Park to get their weekly shops at Aldi, but now they’ll also go to Halfords and Pets at Home, rather than the centre of Whitstable, for other kinds of shopping.
“There’ll therefore be less of a reason for people to shop in town.”
Mr Hitcham says shops in the town have reported a drop in business of “between 20% and 40%” over the last 12 months.
He has previously pointed out that there are currently 15 shops and five pubs in Whitstable that are empty or up for sale.
It is feared the arrival of the stores will steal business away from competitors in the High Street, like Pets’ Pantry.
Its owner, Helen Lucas, said in December that she believed the shop would “probably have to close” if a Pets at Home was brought to Prospect Retail Park and that “the whole high street will just crumble”.
The two new stores will be two storeys high, each covering 700 square metres.
They will open from 8am until 8pm Monday to Saturday, and from 10am until 5pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays.