Pets At Home and Aldi bid to take over Focus site in Buckingham

The staff of Buckingham Pet Foods. From the left, Graham Thomas, Ali Hurst, Paul Thomas and Marian Thomas.'140220M-A158
The staff of Buckingham Pet Foods. From the left, Graham Thomas, Ali Hurst, Paul Thomas and Marian Thomas.'140220M-A158

Buckingham could be getting an Aldi instead of an Asda store if a new planning application is approved.

Asda was granted planning permission almost a year ago to put a supermarket on the former Focus site following overwhelming public support at their public consultation.

But since then nothing further has been heard from Asda and now it appears the disused site has been sold to Aldi Stores Ltd.

A planning application has now been made to divide the former Focus building into two units, for use as an Aldi store and a Pets At Home, providing 35 new jobs locally.

Aldi property director Phillip Warner said: “We are delighted to be coming to Buckingham and we are looking forward to opening our doors to our new customers later in 2014.

“Buckingham has feat­ured on our new store require­ments list for many years and we are confident that our discount format will offer a genuine alternative as well as a substantial saving on the cost of the average weekly shop.”

But the news has dev­astated the owners of Buck­ingham Pet Foods in Market Hill.

Ali Hirst and Paul Thomas fear the out-of-town Pets At Home store could drive their family-run shop out of business, and they’re urging local people to object.

Mr Thomas’s mother, Marion, bought the town centre pet store from well-known local animal lover Mary Rouse.

Mrs Hirst said: “We’re really devastated. Obviously, Pets At Home coming would seriously affect us. It would have advantages we don’t have, such as parking.

“We’re absolutely heart­broken. We have worked so hard for the reputation we’ve got.

“This is Paul’s and my livelihood. It’s all we’ve got.”

Mrs Hirst said their family business is based on good customer service and Mr Thomas’ father, Graham, operates a free delivery service to the villages on Thursdays.

Mrs Hirst said: “Ultimately some customers will stay loyal but some will go there.”

And she added: “There are already 10 other Pets At Home stores within a 20-mile radius of Buckingham.

“We need people to object.

“If the town feels strongly enough about it happening, they might not get it granted.”

The planning application no 14/00316/APP can be viewed on the AVDC Planning Portal. Comments can be registered on the website or written objections can be handed in at Buckingham Pet Foods.

The closing date for public comment is March 14.