A PLAN to bring a TK Maxx store to Redhill has been rejected, leaving residents angry that yet another chance to improve shopping in the town has been blocked.
The proposal would have transformed the Mercedes-Benz garage in Brighton Road into a major clothing outlet.
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council has remained tight-lipped about the identity of the interested retailer, but this week it emerged it was TK Maxx.
The planning inspectorate's recent decision to uphold the council's planning refusal comes as the local authority launches a consultation into its own plan to develop the exact same stretch as a key retail area in the future.
The site is less than 360 metres from the town centre, leaving many residents disappointed and angry that the affordable fashion store has been rejected.
Peter Stevens, 56, who works in The Garland pub, Brighton Road, said: "The bridge is a bit of an iron curtain. If the shopping units came in it would bring a lot of new faces into Redhill.
"At least they would be within striking range of the town centre then."
Jenny Gascoigne, 23, unemployed, of Brighton Road, said: "I can't believe they are turning down the chance to make something more of this area. It looks miserable. Redhill town centre is rubbish and there isn't anywhere I want to shop, so we go to Crawley. Building a shop like TK Maxx here wouldn't stop people going into the town centre, but it might stop people going to Crawley.
"The town centre isn't so far away you couldn't walk there. It would take all of three minutes. It's daft. They want to protect Redhill? Well this is Redhill too."
Retired firefighter Paul Monticelli, 64, of Garland Road, agreed. He said: "We need something at this end of town too, we are overlooked on this side. Better to get business in, at least there might be some travel between the two."
But the decision was welcomed by Andy Nash, manager of Redhill's Belfry Shopping Centre.
He said: "In the Belfry we are holding our own, but it could be an awful lot better. There is a strategy for Redhill which is to work from the inside out.
"There is a lot of desire to make Redhill a success, and there is a local shopping centre and development opportunities there. If you use the potential in the town, it will grow outwards.
"Bad planning is a dangerous thing. You only have to look at how the ring road around Cromwell Road severed that area from the town centre to see how one bad decision can have an effect for years."
According to its own action plan for the town, the council wants the Brighton Road area to be developed for retail within 11 to 15 years, but says regeneration of the town centre would have to happen first. It wants to turn the Marketfield Way car park into a cinema and shops, and also build a supermarket, 100 homes and a hotel at the railway station and car park.
A council spokeswoman said this week a new clothing store on the Mercedes-Benz site "is likely to have a damaging effect on existing town centre shops by attracting shoppers out of the town centre core".