Monday, 16 March 2009

Aberystwyth Madnessplan

As the articles below explain, there are proposals to demolish a number of independent shops and homes in Aberystwyth (on Chalybeate Street and Great Darkgate Street) in order to to allow a large, faceless retail complex to replace them. This proposal is backed up by the threat of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs).


From the Cambrian News, Thu 5 Mar 09, p5



From the Cambrian News, Thu 5 Mar 09, p5


From the Cambrian News, Thu 12 Mar 09, p3

This has caused quite a furor - see all the letters below that were sparked by these announcements! Not one of them suppported the proposal, showing how out of touch the proposal is with the reality of what Aberystwyth residents want (i.e. residents want lots of small, independent, sustainable, unique local shops that add individual character to Aberystwyth).


From the Cambrian News, Thu 5 Mar 09, p18


From the Cambrian News, Thu 5 Mar 09, p18


From the Cambrian News, Thu 12 Mar 09, p21


From the Cambrian News, Thu 12 Mar 09, p21


From the Cambrian News, Thu 19 Mar 09, p21


From the Cambrian News, Thu 19 Mar 09, p21

CIN's view as to why this development would harm Aberystwyth and is flawed

Economy
Research shows (Cato; Douthwaite, 1996) that local shops retain money in the local region. In comparison, national chain stores drain money away from the area. In the area affected there are several well-established local shops. The owners have invested significant resources into these businesses. To be unexpectedly presented with the prospect of CPOs shows a significant lack of respect by Ceredigion County Council for small businesses. The reasons why this plan is foolish include:
  • Independent shops are far better for the local economy – they are linked to local families who spend money locally.
  • A significant number of large national and multi-national chain stores have gone bankrupt in the last six months, and more are likely to follow. Planning the whole development around one company is highly risky.
  • Competition – the large chain store would put smaller, local, shops out of business. For example, cheaper lingerie than in Wendy’s. The cinemas would likely put the Commodore out of business. It could also force the Aberystwyth stores of other national chains to close such as clothes shops – it is unlikely that they could all survive, thus creating more empty shops in the town.
  • Relocated businesses may well end up on less-busy streets in Aberystwyth, and may end up closing as a result of a decline in trade.
There are many questions. A report from Allen Lewis, the assistant chief executive, admitted the major change to the original development proposal is to try and lure Debenhams to the town. Why is Ceredigion County Council backing a plan to destroy local businesses for the sake of one national chain, that could walk away, or fold, at any point, and leave Aberystwyth with a white elephant? What is the wider social impact on the people forced out of their local businesses and homes? What are the costs of re-housing people, of re-locating businesses?

Furthermore, why change the whole character of Aberystwyth just because its historic built environment doesn’t suit one chain store? Allen Lewis is quoted in the Cambrian News as saying “the configuration and size of the existing post office site cannot accommodate their requirements. To meet their requirements it will be necessary to acquire adjoining properties to assemble a larger site.” So Ceredigion County Council is putting the interests of a national company above the interests of the local shop keepers, home owners, and many of the residents of Aberystwyth, who actually like Aberystwyth as it is, and want a sustainable, varied town, not a town that could be anywhere, with streets full of national chain stores.

Character
Aberystwyth is a small coastal market town with a university. It is not a large city. Developments in and around Aberystwyth should be in character with the environs, and sympathetic to the setting.
  • Independent and local shops make Aberystwyth what it is, give it that character. Destroying many of them to make way for one chain store seems a bizarre decision to make.
  • The varied and interesting shops add character to the town, and provide a wide range of goods. Both these streets add to the character of Aberystwyth – the heart of the town and the whole ambiance would be ruined by a large national chain store.
  • We are very lucky to have such an excellent range of shops in Aberystwyth, and within walking distance of everything else. Wendy’s, the greengrocers, Polly’s, Jim Raw-Rees... These central shops are part of Aberystwyth’s character.
  • There would be a huge loss to the built environment if the old buildings that make up this patch of town were destroyed. Keeping the Post Office façade just because it is listed is an example of only paying lip service to conservation. There’s no point to having the façade if what’s behind it is alien to the town.
Sustainability
  • A locally-based economy can be more sustainable in the longer run – there is danger in relying on national chains and the wider economy.
  • The amount of resources needed to knock down all these shops and houses and rebuild it is unsustainable and will have a detrimental effect on the environment.
At a time when many places are thinking about sustainability, the future, and the environment, planning such a large development which would use a huge amount of resources seems illogical. The local Transition Town group in Aberystwyth is working hard on a number of schemes to highlight the importance of being less dependent on national or international resources (oil, food, money), and revitalising the local economy and local societies. This development proposal is counter to sustainable ways of thinking and being.

Compulsory Purchase Orders
  • The potential issuing of CPOs is a stressful and damaging situation for shops and home-owners. The manner in which this was made public made the situation worse.
  • If businesses agree to relocation they are likely to end up on streets that have much less passing trade, which could adversely affect their business. This is unfair.
  • There is no replacement for your home. Imagine if you had to leave your home so that it could be demolished for a large chain store?
  • The houses and businesses next to the development will be adversely affected. They will be next to a building site and subsequently a retail complex that will have considerably altered the whole nature of the town centre. This could adversely affect their market value if they wish to sell – either now when there is uncertainty about the future, or later if the development goes ahead.
Alternatives
Instead the County Council could use existing large retail space e.g. MFI and other large retail units that are vacant. These units have car parking, are already available.

Meetings coming up
If you wish to know more, it is possible to attend a meeting of Aberystwyth Town Council on Monday 23rd March 2009 at 6.30 p.m. (Swyddfa'r Sir, Albert Place). A presentation will be made by the Economic Development Department of Ceredigion County Council. However this is a Town Council meeting soalthough members of the public can attend and observe the presentation, they cannot comment or participate during the meeting. Ceredigion County Councillors will be discussing the Compulsory Purchase Orders at Penmorfa on 30th April 2009 at 10.00 a.m.

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