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Todmorden Supermarket Planning Appeal

From Lindsay Smales

Saturday, 21 July 2012

I thought this round robin message might be of interest to Hebweb readers and all who are concerned with ensuring the future sustainablilty of Upper Calder Valley town centres.

Dear All
As you are no doubt aware, The Halifax Road Supermarket Planning Appeal starts on Tuesday 24th July.

There is a slight possibility that The Inspector might adjourn the Appeal on the first day. This is because ASDA have taken over from Sainsbury's and signed a 'conditional contract' with the landowners to build and run a supermarket on the site should the Appeal find in their favour. In doing so, they claim not to have changed the proposal in any way, but this is not actually the case.

For instance, unlike Sainsburys, who stated they would only sell 5% non-food goods, ASDA plan to sell 30% non food items, such as clothes, electrical goods, pots, pans and so on.

ASDA have also stated that they will sell on the Burnley Road site (at a profit) and are suggesting a whole range on potential future uses for the plot, which would not, of course, include any form of retail that would potentially compete with their new supermarket on Halifax Road.

Suggested alternative uses for the Burnley Road site include a drive-through MacDonald's or KFC restaurant (!)

It is the view of myself, James Gregory (Chair of Todmorden Pride) and David Storah (Chair of the Todmorden Town Centre Renaissance Board) that ASDA are using the Planning Appeal to circumvent the normal planning process and that they should be made to submit a proper planning application upon which they would have to consult with local people and which would be assessed by Todmorden Town Council's Development Committee and CMBC's Planning Committee, both of which are made up of democratically elected representatives.

The decision to go ahead with the Appeal lies wholly with The Inspector, who also – should it proceed – has the singular power to decide whether ASDA and the Property Alliance Group (the landowners) should be allowed to build a supermarket on the Halifax Road Site. However, I think an adjournment is unlikely, not least as CMBC would like to "get the thing over with".

It is extremely worrying that a large multi-national organisation, ASDA/Wal-Mart, is now effectively in a position to dictate what happens on two major sites in our town and thereby the future of the town centre itself.

We have to assume, however, that the Planning Appeal will go ahead.
The people of Todmorden are not yet aware of ASDA's plans to sell more of what are called 'comparison goods' (non-food items).

Last year 3,000+ local people signed a petition objecting to a Sainsbury's. I believe that, were they given the chance, many more would object to an ASDA selling goods that would not only threaten our existing butchers, greengrocers etc but would also undermine the likes of Dawson's, the TV shop on Water Street, Market Traders selling clothes, books and so on.

Prior to the Appeal, both ASDA and CMBC have commissioned Planning Consultants to put the arguments for and against the application. CMBC are on something of a 'sticky wicket' as their senior officers originally recommended that the Sainsbury proposal be approved. During the Appeal these arguments, which mostly centre around the economic impact a fourth supermarket, some 20% bigger than the existing Morrisons, would have on what they call the 'vitality and viability' of existing retailers and town centre businesses, will be debated by highly paid barristers.

There will be an opportunity for members of the local community to explain their views on the merits, or otherwise, of the supermarket proposal – probably on Thursday 26th July. We cannot be sure as to the exact point in the four day Appeal that community representatives will be asked to speak. The Inspector will, hopefully, set out the timetable for the Appeal on Day One.

It would be very helpful if as many local people turn up to witness the Appeal as possible. Few will be able to speak, but it would be good if the Inspector got the message that we are extremely interested in this issue and demonstrate this by being in the Town Hall to watch the process.

In short, it would be good if you could find the time to attend as much of the Appeal as you are able, especially at the start - 10am Tuesday 24th July, on Thursday 26th July and on the final day Friday 27th July.

I can only agree with the front page headline of this weeks' Tod News, which stated that the inquiry will 'determine future of (our) town centre'.
I would be happy to try and answer any queries you might have about all of this and look forward to seeing you at whichever parts of next weeks' Appeal you can come along to.

We need to rally round in order to stop what I now believe to be the real and present danger of the 'Asdafication' of Todmorden.

Kind regards

Dr Lindsay Smales

From Myra James

Sunday, 22 July 2012

This is horrifying. Todmorden might as well be re-named "Walmartville". Certainly the planning appeal should not proceed when the proposal is so different from the Sainsbury's plans (which I also opposed). Now it seems Sainsbury's has its sights on Brown's site in Hebden Bridge. These corporations are determined to take over the upper valley. Is that really what we want?

From Lindsay Smales

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The good news is that after some deliberation the Planning Inspector hearing the Appeal has adjourned it at the start, to reconvene sometime in October/November. This was on the basis that ASDA's proposal actually is different to the former Sainsbury's plan, especially with regard to their wish to substantially increase the amount of non-food goods they aim to sell.

It was also publicly confirmed, for the first time, that ASDA aim to sell on the Burnley Road site for which they already have planning permission.

Press and other notices will go out in early August and there will now be a one-day public exhibition of their proposals - even though they say they are sticking with the supermaket design submitted by Sainsbury's in August last year.
At the very least, this will allow local people an additional period of around 3 weeks to comment upon the change in the mix of goods and to appreciate the wider implications of the future of the Burnley road site once again being up in the air.

A battle has been won today but the war to save our town centre is far from over.

From Myra James

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

That's very good news Lindsay. At least now there is an opportunity to frame proper objections on the basis of Asda's proposals. Some interesting news about Asda - it is now the only major supermarket refusing to pay dairy farmers at least the cost of production of their milk. See 38 Degrees action