I am speaking for myself and on behalf of ‘SOS-No More Supermarkets in Hebden Bridge’, a group of local residents opposed to any more supermarket development in-and-around Hebden Bridge.
As council will remember, my colleague, the architect Hilary Chadwick, spoke here on our behalf three weeks ago. She spoke eloquently on the way Supermarkets ‘funnel-away’ money from local economies. She talked of the closure of independent shops that we know happens when supermarkets come to town, and she produced evidence from the New Economics Foundation that shows that when Sainsbury’s in particular promise new jobs, the truth is that less than 20% of the jobs promised are actually created.
Sainsbury’s make great efforts to assure us that the historical and environmental aspects of Hebden Bridge have been taken into account. However, they make no mention whatsoever of any efforts to preserve the individuality and vibrancy of the town – even though the second key point of the National Planning Policy Framework relates directly to “Ensuring the Vitality of Town Centres”. Even Collier’s International, the group that has prepared this planning report for Sainsbury’s, admits this is a central element of guidance relating to the application proposals.
Hebden Bridge is known as the quirky town of independent shops. The tourist trade that sustains the local businesses and keeps the town prosperous is based on this reputation. The streets that are full during the summer are full of people who come to Hebden because they love it the way it is – they come for the variety, individuality and unique atmosphere that is Hebden Bridge; not for convenience stores and supermarkets.
Any new supermarket coming to town will have a detrimental effect on those businesses that give Hebden its charm. Initially only one or two businesses will close – maybe one of the butchers, a newsagent, perhaps Waites’ bakery…? But what will replace these shops? Perhaps Starbucks & Costa will accept the invitation to take our money and homogenise our high street? Do we think that the entrepreneurs who give us such a variety of interesting shops will hang on, hoping to survive as profits fall and debts loom? Or is it more likely they will pack up and try elsewhere, or retire?
In short order we will lose everything that is special about our high street and become a clone town.
Sainsbury’s are also trying to say there is little changed in their application from the first permission that was granted 5 years ago. But I would say everything has changed since the borough council gave permission for a large supermarket to be built on the edge of town at the Brown’s site. This double-whammy of new competition for our struggling shops should give council huge pause-for-thought. Hebden already has the mid-sized Co-op and two convenience stores in Oasis and One Stop – can we sustain our local businesses whilst delivering a significant slice of the economic pie to voracious appetites of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and all?
Change has also been made to the minutiae of the application. The original (lapsed and void) application was for 318 sq m of shop floorspace, whilst the current application is for 460 sq m – an increase of 45% – this is hardly insignificant.
The most difficult aspect for Sainsbury’s to get around is the traffic issue. Nowhere can I see any analysis of traffic and parking patterns in their application, and I have written to their chief exec, Justin King for clarification on this issue – he was obviously so embarrassed he resigned on the spot.
Sainsbury’s are proposing to remove the 33 parking spaces from the car park itself, plus 5 on-street parking spaces they want to use for deliveries only. They are creating 5 new car-parking spaces but planning 8 new dwellings, most of which are likely to have more than one car.
In order for this plan to be realistic it seeems the only time the proposers have been to Hebden Bridge was a rainy Tuesday in February.
Being a busy man I am often forced to drive into Hebden on a busy day – and finding a parking space is a nightmare. The loss of up to 45 parking spaces will not help in any way. How many drivers will prefer to take their local custom elsewhere by driving to Tod or Halifax? I would certainly be tempted…
The car park, temporary though it is, has become a vital part of Hebden’s traffic infrastructure.
However, the loss of more than 40 parking spaces won’t be a problem – Sainsbury’s know best – they say “The transport impact of the development will therefore not be significant…” and are planning no new parking spaces at all.
Finally, Sainsbury’s are claiming that there will be only 5 deliveries, using 33 foot lorries, every day. They suggest that they will be able to plan these deliveries to avoid the busiest times in the town centre to minimise conflict with other vehicular traffic and with pedestrians. But they offer absolutely no evidence of up-front analysis for this planning. Assuming all daytimes Wednesday – Sunday can be considered ‘busiest times’ does this mean that deliveries, with the associated noise, can feasibly be scheduled at a time that also won’t be disturbing the rest and sleep of the local residents living next door and above?
The trucks are far too big to confortably fit through the streets that will be packed with the parked cars of residents during the evening and shoppers and workers during the day. The streets are definitely too narrow for 3-point turns and I would suggest that allowing goods vehicles to regularly use them will inevitably lead to accidents, if not deaths, as stressed delivery drivers hurry to meet deadlines and drive without proper respect, care and attention to the children and other pedestrians on our streets.
I whole-heartedly urge the council to help preserve integrity, road safety and vitality of the town they have been elected to represent and reject Sainsbury’s plan .