Saturday, 21 January 2012

Tenbury Futures is Consulted by the Local Media

Photographer with locals opposed to Tesco's Old Infirmary bulldozing plans.

Ludlow & Tenbury Advertiser asked us for our perspectives on the latest developments with the town's cattle market site. Here's the full unabridged response from us below.

1. Can you briefly outline for our readers your vision for the former cattle market site.

We ran a community questionnaire in March 2011 in which over 300 local and regional people fed back their preferences and ideas for the town's cattle market site. As part of our questions people could indicate their preferences for its redevelopment - including saying whether they'd prefer a large supermarket there. Over 200 of those who replied stated very clearly that they wished the site to benefit the town with both sensitive and sustainable development that broadly benefitted the community. There was a very clear rejection however of the idea of of using the whole site for one large supermarket 

On the back of this we researched and developed an outline set of plans that would best encompass these findings - which resulted in our PLAN B document that we published/distributed in July 2011. This document provides proactive suggestions in relation to the town that could enhance community facilities, tourism draw, local jobs, parking and highstreet vitality to name but some areas. Shortly after publishing, PLAN B received positive initial support from regional and national funding organisations - notably the Big Lottery Fund which then featured in their 'The Local' - a magazine about proactive communities.

2. How will you convince the owner of the site to work with you rather than Tesco or another major retail outlet? 

This is a tough one, of that there's no doubt. If Tesco's latest application is turned down again then we'd like to start to talk to a range of parties who could come together to look at alternate development of the site. There has been interest in the site from other developers during the time Tesco's latest application has been considered by Malvern Hills. As such, we'd hope that we could help facilitate a blended re-development of the site that met with support from both the owner, funding organisations and potentially other developers who might consider a much more blended use of the site.

3. How will you realise your vision financially and are you planning to buy the land?

We are primarily looking to work with the current owners and interested parties. We would think it unlikely that we would be able to take on and fund the whole project on our own account.

4. What do you fear will happen to Tenbury if the Tesco plan goes ahead?

Our fears are multiple really.. In particular we fear it would heighten highstreet slowdown in an already challenging financial climate. and reduce employment, as large supermarkets have a far lower employment density than small shops.

Exacerbating highstreet slow-down and lessening footfall:
Most of us have seen the way that large supermarkets have affected other market towns such as Llandrindod Wells in which the shopkeepers are wondering why none of their number objected to Tesco's plans there that have contributed to their highstreet slow-down. The Rhyl Journal article "Traders hold crisis talks as Tesco hit sales" discusses this and one trader told our group:
"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”.
In addition, Tesco themselves say that over 60% of their shoppers will not go off into adjacent highstreets. Instead, it's more common to do a 'one stop shop' and get all shopping in one go. Once this shopping is in the car you're unlikely to leave it and go off down the high street. To further illustrate this you only need to to some basic research into adjacent highstreets and you'll find numerous references to businesses who simply can't compete with Tesco's corporate buying-power.
We have reduced the price of the shop. We are definitely selling up... It’s [the local Tesco] devastated us as a business... We go and sit in the Tesco car park and watch all the customers who used to come in to us go in and out of there all the time.”
Julia Moore owner for 20 years of Moore’s Grocers in Madeley, Telford.  From “Every little helps, "Telford shopkeeper to throw in the towel", Shropshire Star, 21st Mar 2011

Little or no impact on unemployment numbers
It's unlikely that such a large Tesco would affect the long-term unemployment numbers in the town either, a report in the Cambrian News in 2010 [1] stated that after looking into 6x towns that had new Tesco stores that:
The opening of supermarkets did not boost the labour market of any of the six towns sampled in terms of claimant count unemployment - despite hundreds of jobs being claimed to be created.”
Richard Stankiewicz of the Barnsley Council’s Spatial Analysis Team, Cambrian News, 3rd Mar, 2010.

Traffic Congestion
The area around the old Teme Bridge already suffers from congestion at specific times of the day. Additionally, most locals have witnessed large HGV's trying to pick their way across its unique bend while traffic backs-up. Despite recent ongoing works to strengthen the bridge it's simply not an effective traffic solution that will serve the Town well in any situation where the traffic is likely to increase. Instead, we're supporting the idea of a second [relief] bridge nearby downstream which could utilise the Cattle Market and bring people into the town there. For retailers and businesses on that site it could prove a real benefit while [via a managed one way system] relieving and helping future-proof traffic-flow to the town. Such a scheme could be looked into with contributions from the developer[s] via 's106 monies' as well as a pooling of both Shropshire and Worcestershire County Council's monies in this area. Without such a scheme, any development on the cattle market site -large or small- and subsequent potential traffic increases will probably exacerbate existing congestion causing more frustration and maybe even injury as desperate hauliers mount pavements to try to get through the bottleneck of the old Teme bridge.

5.  What do you say to those people living in Tenbury who have voiced their desire for a supermarket so they don’t have to drive to Leominster or Ludlow?

Locals seem to shop using multiple methods now with many combining a supermarket shop nearby with additional goods and foods from the town's highstreet. Additionally, some drive the 15 mins to Tesco or Aldi etc in Ludlow, some choose to drive over to Morrisons, Aldi etc in Leominster, some use Lidl at Stourport, others make use of the cheap online deliveries from Tesco etc. In addition, it's worth noting that the town already has three supermarkets already with Bowketts/Nisa, Spar and a Co-op within walkable distance of many in the town and Burford. So in essence we're well served anyway and many use existing supermarket deliveries. Add  to this that many work in outlying towns to Tenbury and who shop while there anyway and it’s not all that make special journeys to shop either.

6. What do you say to those who feel they can’t afford to shop entirely from independent retailers – how can Tenbury deliver an affordable weekly shop for them?

We would highlight again that there are shops locally who cater for a range of budgets, in addition, today's shoppers can [and very often do] make use of online shopping options and deliveries that are available to the town and surrounding area.

7.  Are you in contact with anti-Tesco campaigns in other parts of the county and do you see yourselves as part of a nationwide movement?

Yes, we're in contact with a number of other regional groups who oppose similar supermarket large developments. We're not sure whether you could say there's a 'national' movement as such but the campaigning website '' estimates that there are over 400 similar anti supermarket campaigns now active in the UK [interestingly, mainly relating to Tesco]. It's clear that many thousands of people nationwide are more and more concerned at the power large supermarket chains wield and the negative effects their unchecked growth has on our highstreets.

8. Is there any way you would be prepared to work with Tesco or another major developer on an outlet which you would find more acceptable?

We've already been approached by other developers in relation to the cattle market site. Our perspective has been the same with each in that we'd meet with and listen to their plans and then we'd put them to a vote of the Tenbury Futures mailing list members. If the majority were in support of the ideas then we'd ask for further discussions to see if we could lend our support. The present [Tesco] application for the site just aims to build a very large supermarket. Broadly if there are other developers whose plans tally more with the findings of our community questionnaire [i.e. blended developments including smaller retail, re-use of key historic buildings etc] then we would be keen to look to see if we could lend our support.

9. Why can’t Tesco work for Tenbury in the way it has for Ludlow?

Has it worked in Ludlow and if so then by what measure? The reason it is now where it is on Corve St is that there was a campaign by locals there too against it which lasted for many years. They too feared negative impacts on their highstreet shops and today's location was very much regarded as the lesser of a couple of evils.. It's a false argument though - the idea of ‘in town’ or ‘out of town’ - to us they're both bad for the highstreet. It's a little like asking "what would you prefer to be eaten by - a lion or a crocodile?". There are some who might suggest that Ludlow's Tesco has helped the town thrive but in reality the two towns are very, very different with Ludlow having a vastly different demographic population to Tenbury [Ludlow’s main housing estate alone has more people than the whole population of Tenbury]. Additionally Ludlow thrives due to clever marketing as a rural ‘foodie’ capital which brings in visitors, tourism and associated monies. Ludlow also has its cattle market which additionally brings in people, money and passing trade.. In short they're very different entities. To compound that there is evidence that trade is polarising towards the Tesco end of Ludlow now that there is a clutch of supermarkets there. The Shropshire Star ran an article:“Town Suffering as Trade Evaporates”, in which:

Margaret Edwards, of EJ Poyners in Broad Street, said: “... terrible now. The trade is just finished up this [non Tesco] end of the town.”  Thu 13th May, 2010.

10. Do you think an independent supermarket is more suited to Tenbury?
We do have an independent supermarket already in the town but have no overt preferences as a group. One of our aims is to promote [and if possible to help facilitate] the blended use of the town's cattle market site. We accept that additional retail will need to play a part in this process but we're asking that it should be appropriate, sensitive and sustainable. This combination has been achieved in other towns so why not Tenbury? We believe this message is clearly re-enforced for the third time by the 600+ individual planning objections from local and regional residents to the latest Tesco scheme filed with Malvern Hills' planners.

Tenbury Futures, Jan, 2012