More than 100 residents gathered at a car park this week in fear that the district council may sell it to a supermarket chain.
One thousand Steyning residents have signed a petition to prevent Newman Gardens Car Park, just off the High Street, from being sold to a potential developer.
Nick Hempleman of Save Steyning High Street campaign, claimed he received news from the local neighbourhood plan steering group and an anonymous source that the council was in talks to sell the car park that currently serves shoppers and those using Shaw Healthcare.
He said: “We have been told by two reliable sources that Horsham District Council have had conversations with two supermarkets about selling Newman Gardens Car Park. We’re obviously very concerned about this. It’s very busy already and we really believe it will kill Steyning High Street.”
To combat this Mr Hempleman, who also owns The Sussex Produce Company in the High Street, started an online petition earlier this month to garner local support.
He continued: “Over 1,000 people have joined the campaign in the last seven days and that is a crystal clear sign to the council that there would be real anger locally to any future development on the car park or the introduction of parking charges.”
This could be economically destructiveNick Hempleman
However, in a statement to the County Times, Horsham District Council said it has no intention to sell the car park.
A spokesman said: “An idea was put forward several years ago (2013) to build a small supermarket with residential accommodation. However, this was not progressed. Whilst the land does have development potential, we are not looking to realise this at this time.”
Despite the council denying claims of recent development negotiations, Mr Hempleman said he would like to continue with the petition to show that any future plans to sell the car park will be met with great opposition.
He added: “This could be economically destructive. Were a planning application to come forward there would be a lot of opposition.
“We want to ensure that this not be sold and continued to be used as a free public car park for the health centre and businesses of Steyning.”
Mr Hempleman also said a new supermarket would not support the local traders including the fishmonger, butcher and green grocer.
“We are lucky in Steyning to have so many independently owned shops and the High Street needs help to improve, not a nail in its coffin,” he added.
Steyning parish council chairman Phil Bowell, said: “We don’t know anything about this, but personally it’s something I don’t want to see happen. We couldn’t possibly give up car park spaces.”
Chairman of the Steyning, Wiston, Ashurst and Bramber neighbourhood plan steering group, Nicholas Mills, said he intends to include residents’ concerns in the plan.
He said: “The strength of feeling from local residents and businesses against a supermarket at this location provides strong evidence of opposition to any future plans for this site. The neighbourhood plan will now include this issue and use the evidence presented to reflect the views of local people.”
Mr Hempleman added: “We would like to thank our friends on the neighbourhood plan for informing us of the threat and our local district councillors and the parish council for their support.”
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