After 21 years of running Heathfield General Stores in Pound Hill, Crawley, West Sussex, Tushar and Jyoti Patel have finally run out of space. They have managed to fit almost 5,000 different lines into their 800sq ft store, but it is now filled to capacity.

“We carry more lines than the local Tesco Express store yet we don’t have anything close to the amount of space that it does,” says Tushar.

Ambitious Tushar is looking to expand into new lines and wants to install some more chillers to take advantage of people looking for food and drink to consume on the go.

“We already have large chillers in which we display drinks and some snacks, but we’d really like an open chiller cabinet. It looks so much better and attracts more people to it. Unfortunately, we’ll have to do some rearranging in order to fit it in the store.”

Tushar and Jyoti recognised the need for more space three years ago and applied for planning permission for an extension to the side of their store. However, the local council turned it down on the basis that it would spoil the look of the road.

“The extension would have added another 300sq ft to the store and enabled us to carry more lines,” adds Tushar. “I can’t imagine why they thought it would ruin the look of the road. It wouldn’t have blocked anyone’s view and all of my customers were supportive of the idea.”

Not ones to give up without a fight, Tushar and Jyoti are re-applying for planning permission in the coming months and are demanding to find out the logic behind the council’s decision.

If their second application doesn’t work, they’ll be left with no room to introduce new lines and will face losing out on potential revenue.

in the experts' opinion:



Barlby Village Stores,

Selby, Yorkshire

“The only way to beat the council is to use them properly. The couple should do a survey of the local residents to see if they are happy for the store to be extended. If they are, then the council should act in the best interests of the community and approve planning permission.

“I recently extended backwards in my store so we could open up a pharmacy. Because the local community was in favour of having the facility, it was in the best interests of the area and so the council had no grounds to refuse planning permission.

“Another option for Tushar and Jyoti is to pinch space from another part of the store, so that they don’t need permission to use additional land. Turning a back room into extra floor space could be the solution to their problems.

“If expanding really isn’t an option, then the couple are going to have to weed out slow lines in order to make space for new ones. They should also be sure that the new lines that they want to introduce will be successful. It would be a shame to sacrifice lines for ones that aren’t profitable.”

Simon Biddle

Biddles Convenience Store, Redditch, Worcestershire

“This is quite a common situation and it can be frustrating when planning applications are rejected. But there’s no need to throw in the towel just yet. Tushar and Jyoti should definitely try again with the council in the hope that they will give them planning permission for the extension.

“If they can convince the council that it is better for the community in the long run, in that it might create more jobs in the future, then they are more likely to give it the go-ahead.

“Taking space from their storage area is also an option as it’ll give them some more space for stocking extra lines, although this will only work if they can manage to cope with less storage space.

“Another solution could be to introduce the proposed new lines on a temporary basis, so that if they prove to be slow movers then it won’t lead to any long-term problems.

“While it may be difficult to do this with chilled foods, I’ve always found that if I can trial new product lines then it gives me a good indication of whether or not I should stock them on a permanent basis.”