[Updates at the end of this post.]
On Wednesday 14th December around 40 people attended a snap public meeting organised to give Aberystwyth residents a chance to urgently find alternatives to the Mill Street proposals. The development is expected to see demolition of the existing day centre, possible compulsory purchase orders on houses on Glyndwr road in order to make way for a large Tesco store.
The meeting was initialised by mid and west Wales Green Party in response to the growing clamour of concern about the council backed development. The meeting was the first chance for many to have their views aired publicly. Many of those attending said how they were most critical about the lack of openness and lack of consultation with the council using commercial sensitivity to avoid providing information on the proposals. St Boulevard Road, one participant said, could be a beautiful gateway to the town centre but instead was being turned into a bland runway lined by sheds of shops.
Others present spoke on behalf of elderly family members threatened by the development with the loss of their homes and questioned the thinking behind demolition when there is an apparent housing shortage. The demolition of the day centre was roundly condemned. Further questions were also put on how the impact of moving the day centre would now have on the town library and how there was confusion amongst users at to what the new facilities would now contain.
A vision of a town centre with more independent shops was suggested to make visiting Aberystwyth a better shopping experience, allowing locals and tourists the chance to go into shops that can't be found anywhere else. It was thought that this would be possible if moves were made to tackle landlords' rent and to introduce variable business rates.
Tesco as a store was also criticised for its lack of local produce and for fears on its impact on the Welsh language. One participant described it as a Trojan horse that would destroy Aberystwyth from within and said that it would not create jobs and could even reduce them as small shops like butchers, greengrocers would not be able to compete and would close. They went on to highlight how in such an isolated community new money to spend in the store would not enter the area, pointing out that any spend in Tesco would just be money not spent elsewhere.
Another, larger meeting is going to be organised in the new year, this one will still be open to the public and a special effort is to be made to invite town and county councillors, Mark Williams MP, Elin Jones and regional Assembly Members. Chair of the meeting, Leila Kiersch, summed up the need for the next meeting by saying “They (councillors) may not be able to answer our questions, but we want them to listen. The views and concerns of the local population need to be heard before it is too late to change this development.”
CIN would like to add that we contacted Tesco about Mill Street. They chose to ignore us, obviously believing that 'every little helps' to alienate people. As a way of saying thanks we would like to point people to a Friends of the Earth campaign about supermarkets (which applies equally to Sainsburys' plans to build on greenfield sites in the area), and this site too. Here is a promotional video about Tesco, showing what benefits they would bring to the area.
The second public meeting is to be on Thursday 26th January, 7pm, in the Morlan. A formal invite will be sent to all local councillors and politicians - any who want to listen to the public's views on the subject will be attending. See image below.