Background to the campaign

Mary Portas with Stephen Lloyd MP, Tim Tradewell Chair of Eastbourne'Independent Traders Association and Lucy Newport of the Town Team
Mary Portas with Stephen Lloyd MP, Tim Tradewell Chair of Eastbourne'Independent Traders Association and Lucy Newport of the Town Team

Retail guru Mary Portas has given her support to the Keep Albert Parade Special campaign by writing to the chief executive of Sainsbury’s urging him to re-think the proposal.

Residents have joined forces after learning of plans for a Sainsbury’s to open its doors on the site of the Drive pub.

They are concerned businesses opposite in the Albert Parade area of Old Town, many of which are independent stores, will be ruined if the supermarket opens in that part of town.

Last month the community rallied round to support the shops and spend a fiver in the parade. Now Mary Portas has backed the campaign and said the arrival of such a supermarket would be a threat to shops nearby.

In her letter, the retail guru, who has previously visited the town as part of the Portas Pilot campaign, wrote, “[Albert Parade] is a delightful and well-used parade which brings character and vitality to the area.

‘To place a Sainsbury’s Local right by this threatens the continued existence of the very special provision of small shops.

‘The loss of these shops will result in this unique street losing the essence of its character and becoming yet another bland faceless high street the likes of which I have been campaigning against for years.

While Sainsbury’s is very popular in Eastbourne, and have excellent stores in Hampden Park and Seaside, there is a large amount of resentment against this particular proposal, and I’m sure you will have heard from many local residents. I would strongly urge you to re-think this proposal’.

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd added, “I am delighted that Mary Portas has once again backed Eastbourne and all our excellent independent traders. She has a justifiably exceptional reputation as a retail guru so I am hopeful that the Sainsbury’s Chief Executive, Justin King, will take her appeal on our behalf very seriously.”

Robbie Dowsett, co-owner of the greengrocers on the parade, said, “It’s really good that she has written to them, she feels quite strongly about independent shops.”

Julie Wills, who owns Green Street Pets with her husband, said since the campaign started months ago people have been supportive, “It’s really nice that the community has started to use the shops.

“It’s definitely seen people more engaged. Local people who perhaps were not using the shops have seen the benefit of coming down and using the independent shops.”

Since learning of plans for the supermarket, a covenant on the Drive Pub has been uncovered which means the supermarket giant will now have to apply for planning permission to change the use of the building from a pub to a supermarket.

It was originally thought that under planning laws no planning application had to be made if the building was to be converted into a supermarket.

For more information about the campaign visit Keep Albert Parade Special on Facebook.