According to the latest figures from Southend retail experts, the borough is on course to have more supermarkets than residents by 2018 – this is due in no small part to the rise of discounted supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, along with the opening of a convenience supermarket every eleven seconds in the town.
Andrew Saturato, head of the Southend Planning Committee, explained why his panel has been approving 100% of all supermarket planning applications within the last 18 months. He said: ‘In order to cope with the increasing demand for supermarkets in the town, we have had to relax planning criteria when an application is received from any kind of supermarket, convenience store or ethnic food outlet. Instead of the previous guidelines about how and where a retailer can and cannot be located, we have simplified the process enormously. Once we have the documents in place from a potential outlet, we send a planning official to the site in question to see if there is another similar business within a 10ft radius of the proposed front door. Provided that this clear and justified boundary is adhered to, we are now in a position to say ‘Yes’ and bring vital investment and jobs into the town.’
Working families are also incredibly excited about this news, especially with the opening of many supermarkets that are directly opposite other supermarkets. Maddison Chutney has three young children, and she currently has 42 grocery retail outlets within a 30-second walk of her Westcliff home. She said: ‘Everyone knows that crossing the road is a risky business these days, especially when all you need is four pints of milk and a 5-pack of Curly Wurlys. If I think back actually, I can’t remember the last time I had to even use a pedestrian crossing to buy any sort of groceries.’
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In a separate development, planning bosses are also considering an application to convert the seemingly doomed Nirvana development on the seafront into the UK’s first multi-storey convenience supermarket complex, with a different company’s scaled-down food outlet on every floor. According to an inside source, this will get the go-ahead once an extra inch of car park access road has been secured.