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easyJet owner decides not to open East Croydon food store

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THE founder of easyJet says he will not be opening a budget food store in the former Metlife building after being advised by Croydon Council it may struggle to get planning permission.

But Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is pressing ahead with plans for offices and a hotel at the site in East Croydon, including a temporary mock-up food store on the first floor.

His spokesman said Sir Stelios's easyGroup companies are still considering opening a budget food store elsewhere in Croydon, as well as looking at other areas such as Peckham, Catford and Woolwich.

Spokesman Richard Shackleton said the council had advised at the outset the food store may struggle with planning permission due to its size, location, and council zoning policies. He added: "At that point we just walked away from it."

Plans for a gym at the site have also been dropped, given the company has opened a gym in nearby Thornton Heath, Mr Shackleton added.

The company hopes to open its easyHotel on the top four floors of the building in late summer or early autumn, with roughly 110 rooms.

Managed office space on the lower floors is due to be "marketed imminently," Mr Shackleton added, saying the company would consider a longer-term let.

The planned mock-up food store on the ground floor will be used to conduct market research, with focus groups invited to test the products, mainly packaged and tinned foods and basics such as washing-up powder.

Sir Stelios bought the building, in Addiscombe Road, last year, saying he wanted to enter the budget food business to help people in need.

He explained at the time: "My interest in the food retailing business was sparked by recent press stories covering the widespread use of food banks by the needy and my own experience with the 'food from the heart' charitable programme operated by my philanthropic foundation in Cyprus.

"I have a feeling that there is a gap in the food retail market – a niche below some of the current budget operators such as Aldi and Lidl.

"Concentrating on affordable, basic 'no-brand-name' packet and tinned foods at bargain prices, easyFoodstore underlines the need for additional reliable day-to-day provision of basic foodstuffs."

A spokesman for Croydon Council said pre-application discussions were confidential, confirming that no formal planning application for the food store had been made.

He said the council had granted permission for floors four and five to be used as a hotel and was assessing a further application to use floors six and seven for a hotel.

The office space does not need permission as there is no change of use.

easyJet owner decides not to open East Croydon food store


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