Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tenbury Town Council Rejects Tesco Plans [Again]

A delighted public gallery rang with applause on monday night after Tenbury Town Council voted to reject Tesco's superstore plans for the town's cattle market site [again]. In addition, the Town Council revealed the results of a recent 'local businesses' survey related to the Tesco plans.

Tesco Rejection.
The Council voted to reject Tesco's latest plans after a vote of Councilors ended at 5-4 against the plans. There were mixed opinions voiced from the Councilors on the Tesco issue during debate with some citing the local business survey which appeared to show a majority support for a Tesco. One Councillor, an architect by trade, argued that the consequences of additional traffic from a store of the proposed size would cause substantial traffic congestion around the entrance to the site and the site itself - which would have clearances of only 50cm when Tesco delivery HGVs drove through the store's car park. Another Councilor countered that deliveries would only happen between key time windows. Sadly though, we know from the experiences of many staff at Tesco Ludlow that these delivery windows are routinely flouted by both Tesco and their 3rd party HGV deliveries. Also mentioned was that the bridge would now remain in it's present format so existing Teme bridge queues would be exacerbated substantially too by potential store traffic and deliveries.

Feedback from the local community on the decision.
The decision by Tenbury Town Council was commended by many locals in later correspondence with our group. Examples of these include:
"Fantastic news – well done!" from Mrs H, Nash, Tenbury Wells.

"Was a pleasure to be there yesterday evening and see democracy in action.  I had little experience of how these things work. Yes for sure the size is way over what is needed in tenbury and my main argument has always been why can't we get a sensible scaled down tender from a different superstore (eg, Sainsburys or Waitrose)..?" Brigid O'Hea-Eakins.

"Just wanted you to know how thrilled and delighted I am after reading your email. I know just how strongly you all feel about the 'Tesco issue' as my sister and nephew... live and work in Tenbury and it means so much to them to keep Tenbury unspoilt and the delightful place that it is." Gail Cooke.

"This is a good result. I was interested at the meeting in the Mary Portas comment - when people were asked to describe their ideal small town they basically described Tenbury! Sometimes people don't recognise what they've got until they lose it - at which point it is too late and there is no going back." Mrs Averil Opperman

"Tenbury Town Council have clearly realised the scale of the threat from Tesco to the town's independent shops. I'm pleased that they've made an informed and considered decision on this issue..". Mrs S, mother with young family, Tenbury Wells.
Local Businesses Survey.
Regarding the local business vote, there has been much subsequent discussion about whether it accurately reflects the views of general businesses or local shopkeepers. If you were to think about how many shopkeepers there are - numbering in the region of 35, and focussed a poll just on them we believe that the results would have been very different and either much nearer a 50/50 vote or possibly majority against the Tesco plans. Consider too that the shopkeepers in the main feel directly threatened by Tesco and their plans as opposed to many of the other businesses such as the vets, the dentist and the pubs who won't feel the same threat to their livelyhoods from the plans. This was very much a perspective reflected by Clr Eric Hudson who claimed that the poll didn't really reflect the views of the local shops.

Kibbler's Cobblers.
Having attended the TTC meet on monday 26th Sept ourselves, we have to take issue with Adrian Kibbler's 29th September Tenbury Wells Advertiser account of the proceedings in which he claims that the Lady Mayor 'told the audience be quiet'. We don't recall this at all, the mayor may have reminded all at the start that the audience couldn't speak as this was an extraordinary meeting but we recall no such overt reprimands once the meeting was underway.

The Tenbury Advertiser's thu Sept 29th article seems to centre on alleged 'intimidation' towards Councilors. If you read it through though - there is no actual evidence or details of 'intimidation' discussed, it's purely only suggested or implied. In reality no one in that audience either: ran up to a Councilor during session and physically or verbally heckled them, stood over them while they voted in a secret ballot or cornered them outside the meet before the vote [or anything of that nature].. Indeed if anyone had acted in such a manner they would have been ejected from the chamber - but no-one was.

Instead of the so-called 'intimidation' splashed across the Advertiser's front page, the audience merely clapped after Clrs pointed-out concerns about the plan themselves followed by clapping and cheers towards the meet's end when it became clear the the secret ballot was against Tesco's plans. Hardly the 'intimidation' as painted by the Advertiser.

It strikes us that these claims are just tabloid creative writing though to try and beef-up a thinly-veiled pro Tesco article masquerading as (supposedly) impartial journalism.

And finally.
We'll end on the view of another Councilor who passionately aired his worries towards the end of the meet and said:

"...if they [Tesco] come here then it'll cripple this town".

Friday, 23 September 2011

Dear Tenbury Town Council...

On monday 26th September at 7pm in Tenbury's Pump Rooms Tenbury Town Council will debate whether to offer-up their support to the latest Tesco superstore plan on the cattle market site in the town. Tenbury Futures and a number of individuals have submitted a paper for the Councillors and Lady Mayor to consider during the session. The text from this paper is copied below. We'd urge any locals who share our concerns about Tesco supermarket development on the cattle market to come along on the night to offer up support to the many 100's who have already objected to this latest plan. Their concerns must not be swept under the carpet by either town, district or county councils..

[Paper reads]
Tenbury Futures has clearly already explained its objections to the latest Tesco planning application with a widely-used pro forma planning objection letter. This letter has [and still is] being used by 100’s of people from across the local community – both parents with young families, residents and businesses from the town and adjacent settlements as well as many of the elderly in the community. We do however feel the need to additionally alert the Town Council to a number of other commonly voiced concerns about Tesco and their mode of business.

1.    Supporters of the Tesco application say that the RBB building should be demolished as it is not worthy of retention.

This is totally contrary to English Heritage’s views (and they presumably can be seen as knowing something about historic buildings), where they say that the RBB building contributes ‘positively to the character and appearance of the Tenbury Wells Conservation Area and that it should be retained’. In addition, the building is still in good order and could provide a new bespoke site to house a larger, more accessible Tenbury Museum via Heritage Lottery funded re-development.

2.    Those in favour of the application state that it will open up the previously hidden river frontage.

Again, English Heritage has specifically stated that the existing riverside frontage should remain intact and untouched. In fact English Heritage go so far as to reject the apparent widening of an opening celebrated in the new proposals – ie. the very issue that Tesco’s supporters believe is a benefit.

3.    Tesco is said by its supporters to be offering one hundred free parking spaces.

This is illusory: the spaces are already there and in use on the site. In reality the development offers no extra spaces and – worse – the spaces that are currently free all day will in future be restricted to two hours use. The true figure is then further reduced with Tesco staff using some of these spaces as well as the multiple existing on street spaces that Tesco wish to remove from in front of the Spar building on Teme St.

4.    We are told that Tesco will bring back shoppers who currently go out of town.

There is no doubt that those who shop out of town may be drawn to the new store. Inevitably though, those who currently support the town’s existing traders will use it as well – meaning a loss of trade to those local businesses.

In its financial forecasts Tesco estimate a weekly income of £280,000. This simply cannot derive from the few more retained shoppers that Tesco believe they will attract back. The clear majority of this figure has to come from the tills of independent high street shops of the town – most of which the Tesco store will now compete directly with for custom. Unfortunately though few of the local shops have Tesco’s buying-power and as such will not be able to compete on a level playing field.

Both the Conservative Think-Tank 'ResPublica' run by Philip Blond and Labour Leader Ed Miliband have expressed concerns over the 'Tesco-isation' of our highstreets, ResPublica says:
"The rise of these vast supermarkets, with the infrastructure needed to sustain them, a bias in the planning system and their enormous purchasing power has crowded out competition. These developments have made it impossible for small retailers to grow. We now have a situation where it is unimaginable that a small family-owned shop could grow into a retailing powerhouse like Tesco, or Sainsbury."
More on ResPublica can be found in the Guardian article 'Ed Miliband Backs Greater Voice for Locals on Spread of Supermarkets', 1 May, 2011
As with Tesco Ludlow, any large supermarket on the Cattle Market site will act as a ‘one stop shop’ which will start to polarize trade in the town to the Teme Bridge end. Once shoppers at Tesco Ludlow have bought all of their groceries, loaded them into their cars and eyed the limited remaining time left in their parking allotment the majority opt to get their goods home to fridges and freezers as quick as possible. Leaving chilled goods and groceries in their car and wandering-off up into town then becomes a very unlikely scenario. This scenario can only be replicated if a supermarket of this size is allowed to be built in Tenbury – independent town shops already unable to compete are unlikely to see much if any associated trade.
Margaret Edwards, of EJ Poyners in Broad Street, said: “... are terrible now. The trade is just finished up this [non Tesco] end of the town.”
Details on trade polarizing to the Tesco/Aldi end of Ludlow and independent retailers losing profits up town can be found in the Shropshire Star Article: “Town Suffering as Trade Evaporates”, Thu 13th May, 2010.
 Tesco is not a Tenbury business: it provides mainly unskilled low-paid jobs, and takes its profits out of the area. Whereas money spent with independent shops circulates within the local economy up to three times longer than when it’s spent with national chains, research by the New Economics Foundation has shown [Quote below].

"This means that every £1 spent with a local supplier is worth £1.76 to the local economy, and only 36 pence if it is spent out of the area. That makes £1 spent locally [in independent shops] worth almost 400 per cent more."   
Sourced from: "Buying local worth 400 per cent more", 7 Mar, 2005 
 We can find many references to Tesco moving in to small towns and their high streets declining [sometimes swiftly] but we could only really find the one reference that suggested Tesco had ‘improved’ a town and this was in Beverley – strangely enough quoted from ex Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy. However scratch the surface and the town’s locals tell a different story:
 “Beverley didn't need Tesco, it was already a prosperous town. Tesco came to plunder not regenerate. They came to take money out of the economy of an already thriving and wealthy market town.
Richard Wilson, retired lecturer and Beverley resident [taken from ‘Checkout Chuckout’ – Corporate Watch, 2006].
In this area you only need to look at Llandrindod Wells which is a larger market town with a wider range of shops. No-one there bothered to object when Tesco submitted plans for a supermarket – they all thought that it would ‘benefit’ the town. Within just a few months though the local traders realized their mistake culminating in emergency meetings of their Chamber of Trade trying to address the sharp downturn in both profits and footfall. One local trader and member of their chamber related the story as follows:
 "In the first 3 months they [Tesco] have devastated the local high street to the tune of a 35% to 64% downturn... They are actively targeting the local Boots store [35% to 40% down] and the local Co-Op [formerly Somerfield 65% down]. Most other retail businesses are experiencing between 15% and 30% decline... some 4 months after Tesco opening. The biggest problem has been the reduction in footfall, people are using Tesco as a one-stop shop and not walking or even driving into the old town centre..."
Further details can be found on this story in the Rhyll Journal article of 15th Oct 2010 “Traders Hold Crisis Talks as Tesco Hits Sales”.
5.    It is claimed that the development will enhance the street scene – although this claim is without support.
In fact English Heritage specifically states that the development will have a detrimental effect on the character and distinctiveness of Tenbury Wells’ historic environment.

With the town’s constant desire to try to increase its tourism draw and related incomes from this sector - surely the town council ignores this advice at its peril?

6.     Supporters of Tesco claim that it will provide healthy competition.

There can be no rational person who believes that a multinational giant that is famous for its maltreatment of suppliers and that has been proven to operate predatory pricing is healthy competition for family-owned shops. What small enterprise is there that chooses to set up next to a Tesco?

If the application is accepted, the supermarket’s aggressive discounting capabilities will soon start to affect local shops and supply chains in Tenbury. It won’t just be the shops that suffer but their network of local suppliers who will also start to lose out. Indeed Tesco has a very poor record on stocking local foods and simply just couldn’t offer-up local Tenbury apples from the supplier in the same valley as independent grocery shops could in the town. In fact, due to Tesco’s huge central distribution network, if they wished to stock Tenbury or Teme Valley apples the journey of these apples would be as follows:

1.    Road transport from Teme Valley to UK port on the east coast.
2.    Transport by ship to Eastern Europe where they will be cleaned and packaged + misc transport by road on the continent.
3.    Transport back to the UK again by ship.
4.    Road transport to Coventry distribution hub.
5.    Road transport to cold storage at Avonmouth.

Only after travelling the final 80 miles from Avonmouth to Tenbury will these Teme Valley apples be ready to sit on a Tenbury Tesco shelf. Those apples will have travelled 1000’s of miles when they could have been brought from around the corner. This is food miles gone mad and a PR disaster for Tesco when the unsustainable methods they use are exposed yet again.
Further details on Tesco’s poor record on food miles can be found in articles: "From here to eternity: 340-mile journey for clotted cream made two miles away". Guardian, 3rd Sep 2010 and "Tesco criticised for selling Peruvian asparagus in British home of the vegetable". Daily Telegraph, 11th May, 2010.
7.    Tesco’s supporters have put forward the widening of the bridge as being a reason to accept the development.
In fact there is to be no widening – which presumably means that this is a reason for the application to be rejected. WCC said in their public meeting at the High School that they have their ‘hands tied’ by English Heritage whose duty it is to police the bridge in accordance with its status as a unique Scheduled Ancient Monument. 

We’ve all seen lorries and buses mounting pavements to get around the bend with just one car coming the other direction. This situation just gets amplified at peak times – times that will become much more frequent with the increase in road users and HGV traffic if Tesco are allowed to build on the Cattle Market site. The bridge can’t be improved – it is beyond help. Do not condemn the townspeople to traffic misery by inviting in Tesco and their massive potential traffic increases.

8.    Supporters of the development also state that Tesco is to contribute to the public realm works.

To date Tesco has made no such statement – and the simple hope that it might contribute money is just that – simple hope.

In this context, Planning Gain = Legitimate Bribery 
For more information on Tesco and the pressure they levy on local council planning services and 'planning gain' please see the Corporate Watch article "Checkout Chuckout: Tesco and the planning system".
9.    Supporters of the development claim that the store is an ‘eco development’. 
On analysis this PR claim clearly doesn’t ring true either. Commercial use of sustainable technologies such as Solar PV, Solar Water Heating, Wind Power, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Heat Exchangers, and Wood Chip Boilers utilising chipped waste or quick growing woods is now widespread in large developments. 

The furniture superstore Ikea runs 52 wind turbines in France and Germany, is presently building a wind farm to power 17 new Swedish stores and has an end goal of running their stores on 100% renewable energy. In contrast, Tesco’s proposal that they use ‘glass and wood’ on this build -utilising the simplest renewable technology, that of ‘solar gain’ - and that this will supposedly constitute an ‘eco build’ is both an example of gross tokenism, PR gloss as well as Tescos’ arrogance. Their plans are about as 'eco' as a Saudi Prince's personal fleet of Hummers.
We urge Tenbury Town Council to reject the advances of Tesco in the town and so help safeguard the independent shops in the town’s high street – especially in this time of difficult trading. We also urge you to consider the massive increases in both traffic and congestion that this development will generate now that the Teme Bridge is to remain in its current format. Surely the cattle market site should be sensitively and sustainably developed so that it provides a benefit right across the community and helps with the town's tourism draw? The Future is in your hands.

On behalf of the Tenbury Futures Group.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Another Hundred Tesco Objections go to Malvern's Planners...

The latest tranche of Tesco planning objections.

Another 100 Tesco planning objections is about to wing it's way to Malvern Hills.. Participating shops taking in objections in Tenbury have reported a steady flow of planning objections coming in - both bespoke hand-written, bespoke word-processed as well as completed pro-forma objections as offered-up by Tenbury Futures.

One of the participating shops we spoke to today confirmed that in a just couple of weeks alone they had already received and passed-on over 300 individual Tesco planning objections to Malvern Hills planners. While we can't reveal individual names on the objections we can confirm that they are coming from all sections of local society - including parents of young families, the elderly and both residents and local businesses. Well here's another hundred for the pot [above] and there's still a number of weeks until the end of the consultancy period.

Even as we were taking these pictures today additional planning objections were still flowing in to the participating shops we spoke to. Yet again this is very clear evidence of the unerring strength of feeling within the local community against a large supermarket of this type on Tenbury's cattle market site.

We'd just like to take this moment to thank all those 100's of local people who have already made their feelings against Tesco's plans very clear again in written objections. We'll be monitoring the rest of the objections coming in and will report on them again at the point that they're no longer accepted by Malvern Hills Planners.

Remember too that Malvern will be accepting objections for a number of weeks yet [we now believe the cut off is Nov 2nd 2011]. You can still download our pre-written pro-forma objection letters from this site using the buttons at the top left of the site or just click these below:

Monday, 12 September 2011

Have WCC Done Their Bailey Bridge Homework?

Artist's impression of how a Bailey Bridge might look across the Teme.

Tenbury Futures have been double-checking some sums offered-up by Richard Attwood, Worcester County Council's Engineering Project Manager in charge of the Teme Bridge closure and works. Mr Attwood recently confirmed that the idea of a temporary supporting Bailey Bridge for the duration of the Teme bridge closure [a period of months] was effectively more than WCC were prepared to pay. Adding salt to the wound though, WCC have provided a full report explaining their logic with new bridge works in Evesham but not for our town. It would seem on the surface that Tenbury doesn't warrant the same treatment or attention to detail with 6 months of Teme bridge closure visited upon us as a  fait accompli.

Mr Richard Attwood said:
"I believe there is an assertion that a Bailey Bridge could be provided economically [across the River Teme] based upon the experiences of 2009 in Cumbria. The reality of this is that the Cumbrian site was more rural and the hinterland around was reasonably flat with a shallower river channel which made the provision much easier. Nevertheless, the cost I am led to believe was in the order of £4M..."
 Some Quick Homework...
And yet a quick check on Bailey Bridge suppliers reveals the company 'Beaver Bridges' based 40 minutes drive north of Tenbury in Church Stretton. We took the liberty of contacting Beaver Bridges and asked them for a quote on a temporary Bailey-type bridge of a length suitable for a Teme crossing. To our surprise, a Bailey Bridge of this scale cost a fraction of Mr Attwood's £4 million estimate. A bridge of this nature would not only provide vehicle access to the town while Teme bridge closure and works were ongoing but also provide full access to the town for fire engines based in Burford and alternatively full police cover for Burford.

In fact for a period of 7 months [much longer than Mr Attwood expects the Teme Bridge to be closed] the cost of installation, hire, maintenance and deconstruction was £210,000.

Extract from Beaver Bridges Quote, Monday Sept 5th 2011:
Required on site:..................... December 2011
1)      Specifications
a)      45.8m long x 4.2m Wide x 40/44te capacity modular bridge
b)      All steel construction c/w steel Durbar deck plate.
c)      Simple (non-compliant) pedestrian parapet restraints.
d)      Bridge unit weighs (undecked) –           39 tonnes
e)      Bridge unit weighs (decked) –               65 tonnes

2)      Financials
a)      Weekly Hire rate –       £5,550+VAT
b)      Transport to site -         £9,000 + VAT
c)      Erection on site –          £12,000 + VAT
d)      Dismantle on site –        £12,000 + VAT
e)      Return to depot –         £9,000 + VAT

3)      Client to provide
a)      Suitable crane to unload and install the bridge and to carry out the reverse operation
b)      Suitable access equipment – as necessary to carry out the bridge installation.

[We are awaiting an additional quote to cover these latter areas which we will add when one is sent].
Evesham's Temporary Bailey Bridge
Evesham is currently having similar issues with one of their bridges (note that their bridge, although a major route for the town, does not provide the only crossing of the river in the way that the Teme Bridge does for Tenbury).  There is a full report on the Worcestershire County Council website about the problems with the Evesham bridge, the options that have been considered, the pros and cons of each option, and information about consultation with the local community.  
There is no such information concerning the Teme Bridge, and if any report exists it has not been made public. Indeed.. could it be said that there is no documentation for Tenbury because WCC hasn't really carried-out an effective consultation on this locally? Is there simply little or no content to create such a document? In terms of local shop keepers, all they have apparently had is questions and short conversations about deliveries AFTER the bridge closes. It would seem from the Tenbury Futures questionnaire in the previous post that discussion of what options are available to keep the high street as vibrant as possible during this closure - [or even whether the bridge needs to fully close as per the traffic lights and 7.5tonne weight limit on the 'A' road over the Holt Bridge] have clearly not been explored in consultation locally.
In summary:
Evesham gets a Bailey Bridge to ensure full traffic flow during it's bridge works and a full report justifying this work. Tenbury to date has been told the bridge closure will last for 'a number of months'. No exact figures have been provided and no report has been made public.
WCC claim:
Temporary Teme Bailey Bridge for 3 or so months to cost in the region of:
£4 Million

Tenbury Futures' Bailey Bridge Quote for 7 months:

That's a difference of nearly £3.8 million pounds.

Come on Mr Attwood, please give Tenbury the time of day, we're taking this seriously even if you're not..