Monday, 28 November 2011

Tesco - Aberystwyth fights back - Updated

Eurwen has posted a comment on the story dealing with Tesco's plans to build a new superstore close to the historic centre of Aberystwyth which deserves a wider audience. It is reproduced in its entirety below.

Do look at Ceredigion Cllr Alun Williams' blogspot. It's not only Mrs Jones' street that's threatened with demolition, but the Park Avenue Daycentre for elderly and disabled people and related groups (Arthritis Care, Visually Impaired, Gateway Club for people with learning difficulties). An emergency group has been established to fight this demolition and Mrs Jones supports it. A petition with 4,000+ signatures is to be presented to Ceredigion Council on 6 December at 9.45am when Cabinet next meets. Silent vigils are held in protest each Saturday at Park Ave, 2-3pm. All welcome.

Cllr Williams' blog can be found here

It was a supermarket planning battle which led to the creation of this blog. In Newcastle Emlyn we fought for almost three years against a proposed development for yet another supermarket, and lost by a whisker in September when the Independent and Labour members of Carmarthenshire's planning committee voted as a group to accept the application, which contained serious and obvious flaws.

The developer insisted throughout that no specific supermarket group had done a deal to take over the site, but now a couple of months after planning was granted, rumours are circulating locally that he has done a deal with Tesco, which will expand its Cardigan store and build another in our town.

Fighting supermarket planning applications can drag on for years and years, and this process inevitably wears down local opposition. But Aberystwyth has some good cards in its hand, and there should be no shortage of people with the stamina and skills needed to dig in for the long haul. A campaign which brings together local people, politicians and the skills and expertise which exist in the university could well succeed in getting the plans changed.

Pob lwc i chi i gyd.

Update

Another correspondent has informed me that in addition to the houses and the Day Centre, the Tesco plan will also require demolition of the Drill Hall, which may be a listed building.

Not only that, but work has already started on fitting out the Town Hall to house the Day Centre, which suggests that the public consultation on the plans is like the public "consultations" we are so familiar with in Carmarthenshire.
.

6 comments:

Photon said...

Pob lwc, indeed.

"never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

Winston Churchill, 1941.

Jac o' the North said...

Our worries about Tesco should not be confined to how it seems able to manipulate or intimidate Welsh councils.

Some five years ago Tesco opened a big supermarket in Porthmadog - and brought in all the staff from England. So there weren't even the benefits of local employment. And this was in Plaid-controlled Gwynedd.

Anonymous said...

Cneifiwr,

I want to ask you a question. Can you tell me why do the supermarkets almost always win? I live just outside NCE but in Ceredigion. I'm interested to know how the councillors voted. Can you point me to a source of information? Diolch.

Cneifiwr said...

Diolch i chi am ofyn.

The votes went 9-7 in favour of the application, with 9 Independent and Labour members of the committee voting for a supermarket, and 7 Plaid members voting against. 4 others declared an interest at the start of the meeting, and so were unable to take part.

With the exception of one member representing Cynwyl Elfed (approx 10 miles away), none of those voting in favour represents anywhere close to this area.

The application was opposed by a large number of local people, the Town Council, the county councillor, the AM and our MP.

Unusually there was no named supermarket interested in the site, and several people commented that whereas it is normally a supermarket trying to get into a town, we had a local businessman trying to find a supermarket willing to buy his land.

It was obvious from the start that the planning officers were in favour of the application, and there seemed to be a determined effort to brush aside the many problems and flaws in the application itself. Why that should be, I don't know.

Apart from the fact that most people locally didn't want it, there are huge geological problems with the site; it borders a SSSI and SAC; the town's traffic congestion is chronic already and the retail impact assessment was demonstrably wrong.

Perhaps part of the answer lies in the council's mindset which sees supermarkets as "progress". In fact a huge reliance is placed on new retail development as part of the council's regeneration policy.

This mindset is stuck in the 1980s and is doing immense damage to communities such as ours. A much better option would have been to redevelop the site with small shops, workshops and a producers' market to encourage the development of local food producers.

But that was never an option because land with planning permission for a supermarket is the most valuable land there is.

Arthur N said...

All this is true but we really do need a new supermarket. Morrisons is simply far too busy, the weekly shop is not much fun at the moment. Many, probably a majority of local people simply cannot afford to use smaller locally based shops, however good they may be. We may not like Tesco but we need them.

Cneifiwr said...

Thank you Arthur. I think you may well be right that there is scope for another supermarket in Aber, although I think it's worth remembering what sparked this off. Mrs Jones and other residents were aware that the car park was earmarked for a supermarket. What they could not know was that Tesco, the developer and the council cabinet agreed in secret to allocate not just the car park but also privately owned houses, the Drill Hall and the Day Centre to the site.

Something has gone very wrong when a supermarket starts demanding demolition of people's houses to make way for a new store.