Saturday, 4 February 2012

A second public meeting held

A second public meeting (both organised privately rather than by the County Council) about town developments and the Mill Street car park/Tesco controversy was held on Thursday 26th January, at 7pm, in the Morlan.

Approximately 140 people attended including: Leila Kiersch (Chair), Timothy Foster (Co-chair), Eurwen Booth (Translator), various councillors and representatives from groups such as Age Concern Cymru, Friends of the Earth, Over 50s Forum, Save Park Avenue Day Centre, local businesses, and many members of the public.

We'll relay some of the information given at the opening of the meeting.
  • Marks and Spencer has been unveiled as the second big name for the multi-million-pound development on the Mill Street Car Park in Aberystwyth, alongside Tesco.
  • Developers Chelverton say they have “agreed terms” with M&S to build them a 54,000 square-foot store, which will sell food, clothing and household goods. If the plans go ahead, the M&S would be at the front of the car park and the Tesco supermarket would stand behind it. The scheme would result in the demolition of the Park Avenue Day Centre, all the houses in Glyndwr Road and the Drill Hall.
  • Proposed floor plan below:

  • BBC Wales' Week In Week Out found that Ceredigion council & Chelverton appear to be saying different things about the future of the Mill Street car park, especially on whether CPOs will be needed and whether Glyndwr Road and the Drill Hall will be demolished. 
  • Homeowners in the street have been aware for nearly two years that plans were in the pipeline because a local estate agent & the developer itself had been asking them whether they would sell. 
  • Nine of the 12 homeowners have agreed but three have refused. They are the ones worrying about being forced out of their homes by this development.
  • Local shops: In 1998, the government commissioned a study of the impact of big stores on market towns. It found that when a large supermarket is built on the edge of the centre, other food shops lose between 13 and 50% of their trade.
  • The result is “the closure of some town centre food retailers; increases in vacancy levels; and a general decline in the quality of the environment of the centre.”
  • As the supermarkets closed in, independent stores in the UK shut at the rate of 2,000 a year between 1997 and 2004.
  • But the superstores’ own research shows that every large outlet causes the net loss of 276 jobs
  • Independent shops employ five times as many people per unit of turnover. 
  • Tesco maintains that it will buy local produce “wherever possible”. But when its representatives were challenged on this point, they said that local suppliers would have to sell their produce to the company as a whole. It would be trucked to the nearest distribution centre – in Avonmouth – and then trucked back across Wales to Machynlleth.
  • Day Centre: Plans would demolish the centre in Park Avenue to build a Tesco, displacing about 100 users.
  • 6,000 signatures for a petition presented to the council.
  • The day centre provides a valuable service to the community offering respite care for carers and offers a break from home for elderly people.
  • But the Save Park Avenue Day Centre (Spadc) group claims the basement room is too small and a disabled ramp outside is unsuitable.
  • Sainsbury's: Supermarket giant Sainsbury's announced plans for new store in Aberystwyth just weeks after proposals Tesco were unveiled. The Sainsbury's development is earmarked for greenfield land out of town, near a Morrisons supermarket. Developers Conygar said a planning application had not been submitted for the planned 37,000 sq ft (3,437 sq m) Sainsbury's store near Aberystwyth's ParcLodge Hotel.
Some points made during the meeting and discussions
  • Drill Hall: One contributor pointed out that it is a piece of historic Aberystwyth used built to train militia during WWI. Historical architecture. It isn’t listed but it should be. 
  • Glyndwr Road: The possible demolition of Glyndwr Road was discussed – people present said it is row of well built family homes. One tenant who rents a house in the road said “I live on Glyndwr Road, renting. It was heartbreaking to learn that my home is to be torn down to make way for multi-storey car park and a Tescos.” Others who have family living on the road said that it was underhand the way things have been happening. One person’s mother is now in hospital because of it. Many people were very concerned that people could be forced to leave homes to allow a Tesco's. Questions were raised about compulsory purchase orders. One councillor answered this, saying that it was not decided yet, but would need majority vote of the council to go through. Other councillors said they would not be inclined to vote for CPO’s. Environmental concerns about new build were also raised,  saying it is very energy intensive and uses lots of carbon. One resident of Greenfield Street was concerned about any road system associated with the development and wanted to know if they would still be able to use their garden gates. It was pointed out that it is disgraceful when there is said to be a shortage of houses in the area for the Council to propose knocking homes down for yet more supermarkets.
  • Shops & shopping: A document showing research on supermarket saturation was circulated to the meeting. Those concerned by Tesco wondered if Aberystwyth had enough supermarkets already, and many said that the impact of large shops is negative. Someone in the meeting had said there was a need for supermarket-type shops in the area. However they forgot that there is already a Morrisons, Co-op, CKs, Iceland, Lidl, two Spars, Aldi (soon) and so on. A woman in the audience said that County Council has 42 males and 5 females, yet these decisions – e.g. shopping and the day centre affect mainly women. This prompted someone else to say that in their opinion CCC do not fight for North Ceredigion e.g. re: Bronglais: that it was ‘OK’ for many of the Cabinet members because they are from the south of the county and are closer to Glangwili? Other points made included that –  
  • Supermarkets sell everything so they affect all traders and not just food stores.
  • The most interesting towns to visit are those with lots of independent shops, that therefore have an individual identity, rather than being like every other identi-kit town.
  • Mention of recently published report to Welsh Government on demise of small towns.
  • One speaker's parents live in Inverness, Scotland - there is such an abundance of supermarkets (third highest supermarket saturation in the UK - see section at end of this blog post) but it is now no longer possible to buy fresh fruit or veg - even an apple - without using supermarkets. Over time they have managed to shut down all the local independent grocers.
  • If land is sold to Tesco or other then we and the authority loose rights to act e.g. hold markets / protests.
  • As fuel prices increase people will not be able to travel further afield so where will all these people come form that we are trying to attract?
  • No one has considered the environment.
  • Do people really want Aberystwyth to be another ‘Clone Town’?
  • People should support their local shops in favour of supermarkets and chain stores if they want to keep them.
  • More general discussion was held about the decline of shopping in Aberystwyth, many felt that this was due in part to business rates and the economic climate as well as the Internet. At least 3 people said that rates and rents are too high in Aberystwyth (Charity shops pay a lot less in rates). Need the councils help to support local businesses. Lot of shops empty already. If people do not support small shops they will not survive. 
  • Day Centre: lots of points made about the lack of consultation from the County Council, the poor facilities that the Day Care Centre will be replaced with and so on. 
End of the meeting
The meeting was scheduled to end at 9.00pm however at 9.30 pm the room was still full of people with unaddressed concerns. The meeting was brought to a close by the chair with the conclusion that the council should hold these types of consultations and that the councillors present would try to get the council to organise another public meeting. County Councillors agreed to look into having a consultation with the public on the issue. It is a shame that they only do this after widespread complaints, public meetings organised and paid for by individuals, and after many of the decisions have already been made. If you wish for the council to organise a public consultation or meeting on the matter, please write to the cabinet members (see council website) and council officers (planning, social services, library etc) and ask that they do so and before the end of March (after which any planning applications due to be submitted would make a public meeting impossible).

Supermarket saturation report that was distributed
A well-researched report was distributed which provides a lot of illuminating evidence. It speaks for itself so we will paste the text below. It definitely backs up the argument that people are not against supermarkets - it is just that we have enough in the town already!
Supermarket saturation point
There is very strong evidence that the area in and around Aberystwyth is already saturated in its need for supermarkets, and any further entries into this market will not be beneficial to either the local economy or to jobs in existing food stores.
Several independent studies have shown that encroachment of supermarkets into small communities leads to losses in employment and profitability of local shops, with a strong detrimental knock-on effect in the local economy. The quality of information submitted during the planning process by large retail businesses has been questioned, especially concerning the real level of local job market impact.
A specific study of our local supermarket capacity has been conducted for comparison with publicly available regional information:
Aberystwyth already has four supermarkets/large food shops (Morrisons, Co-op, Lidl and Iceland) and several other smaller food chainstores (Spar, CKs), as well as local businesses. Also, a planning proposal is in process for Aldi (Park Avenue, on the old KwikSave site, planning application A090312).
The floor space of the existing stores are:
Morrisons: 50,000 sq ft
Co-op: 10,000 sq ft (approx)
Lidl + Iceland: 10,000 sq ft (approx)
Recent reports suggest three possible new entries into the local market in addition to the Aldi proposal: Tesco (Mill Street site), Sainsbury (near Parc Lodge Hotel), and Marks & Spencer (Mill Street site). The reported sizes of these stores are:
Tesco: Unknown (estimated as 30,000 to 40,000 sq ft based on the size of site, car parking requirements, and similar developments elsewhere)
Sainsbury: 37,000 sq ft
Aldi: Unknown (assume 10,000 sq ft for calculation purposes)
M&S: 54,000 sq ft (8,000 sq ft in food hall)
In October 2010, CACI (a market research company) published a study of supermarket floor space per person by postcode area; if a similar study were conducted in the local area around Aberystwyth, it is clear that it would appear amongst the list of the most highly saturated:
Highest supermarket sq ft per person by postcode area
1) DD - Dundee - 2.86
2) TD - Galashiels - 2.62
3) IV - Inverness - 2.45
4) KW - Kirkwall - 2.39
5) AB - Aberdeen - 2.25
6) CT - Canterbury - 2.25
7) FK - Falkirk - 2.23
8) G - Glasgow - 2.23
9) DG - Dumfries - 2.22
10 EH - Edinburgh - 2.20

Lowest supermarket sq ft per person by postcode area
1) W - London West - 1.11
2) UB - Southall - 1.21
3) SL - Slough - 1.22
4) N - London North - 1.23
5) E - London East - 1.23
6) IG - Ilford - 1.25
7) SW - London South West - 1.25
8) SE - London South East - 1.26
9) LU - Luton - 1.30
10) NW - London North West - 1.33
The resident population of Aberystwyth, Llanbadarn and Comins Coch is approximately 18,000, with an additional term-time student population of 8,000. A further 6,000 to 8,000 residents are within easy driving distance (e.g. Bow Street, Penrhyncoch, Talybont, Borth). The floor space of the existing major stores would therefore give a minimum value of 2.06 in term time and a maximum of 2.92 (i.e. above the maximum otherwise measured in the UK); these will rise to 2.35 and 3.33 if and when the Aldi proposal is completed. Any further rise in floor space from the suggested Tesco or Sainsbury proposal will take the local area massively above any area in the UK, and adoption of both would result in a near doubling over the current position.
Information sources
CACI report
Morrisons floor space
Sainsbury report
Tesco report
M&S report
Aldi planning progress
Information sources for independent studies on effects of supermarkets

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