Speech delivered by Hilary Chadwick, architect (ARB, FHEA, Grad Dip, BA) 8/1/14
I am a spokesperson for a newly formed group of Hebden Bridge residents who are concerned about a proposed new ‘Sainsbury’s Local’ supermarket in Hebden Bridge, especially given that planning permission for a supermarket on the edge of the town has just been granted, despite dozens of objections from the local community.
Hebden Bridge is a town renowned for its unique collection of small independent shops. Hebden Bridge has a strong community, with many active citizens.
We understand the impact that supermarkets have on local businesses, and the way in which large chains take money away from the local economy, thus ultimately harming the vibrancy and vitality of the town, and the community.
Supermarket profits are not fed back locally, and rarely support any community activities, unlike local businesses. According to the Federation of Small Businesses in 2008, approximately half of the turnover of an independent local retailer goes back into the local community, while only 5% of the turnover of a supermarket does.
In June 2010, the BBC’s “Mary Queen Of Shops”, shopping expert Mary Portas, blamed supermarkets for “killing” Britain’s smaller shops and said “We’re sacrificing not just our greengrocers, our butchers and our bakers, but also our communities for convenience.”
Supermarkets have mass buying and bargaining power and it is easy for them to under-cut small businesses on certain lines, in an effort to tempt customers away from local stores. For small shops, losing only a small percentage of their customers can make the difference between being viable and being forced to close.
An investigation by the Competition Commission in 2008 (1) showed that supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s have been increasing the number of high street and town centre convenience stores they own. Meanwhile, over 80% of the independent shops on our high streets have closed.
Case studies have shown that once the local competition has gone, supermarkets may raise their prices, leaving the community worse off – with little choice, and not even cheap food to make up for an empty town.
Hebden Bridge is a town which relies on tourism for a large part of its economy, and which ‘sells’ itself on the basis of its little independent shops; if these shops closed, the scenario would be a disaster not only for the businesses themselves, but for our local economy and our community.
Local businesses support local suppliers and producers, which is a key element in holding a community and a healthy local economy together. The standardisation within supermarket chains certainly makes shopping easy, but does not offer a great choice of locally-made or locally-grown products.
Sainsbury’s are proposing to build directly adjacent to Hebden Bridge’s Market Place, and opposite our community-focused Town Hall. We feel that this would be highly inappropriate. Standardisation and homogenous shopping experiences are anathema to Hebden Bridge, a town close to the birthplace of the Totally Locally campaign which has made a point of encouraging small businesses to use “local distinctiveness” as a major plank of their marketing.
Supermarket alternatives such as Markets, Farmers’ Markets, Delivery Box Schemes and Community Co-ops, which predominantly sell locally produced items and employ local people, are all at risk.
This is not merely a local issue, but a national and international one. Pressure on farmers and suppliers from supermarkets is causing hardship across the world.
A 2012 study titled “Global Food: Want Not, Waste Not”(2) reported that a staggering 17 billion portions of fruit and vegetables are left to rot by supermarkets, rejected because they are not considered “uniform”. To reach the standards supermarkets demand, at the low prices they demand, intensive farming techniques are necessary, which leads to limited varieties of food being grown, land being polluted with chemicals and massive amounts of food being wasted.
We are bored and angry with the profit-driven vision of large chains, and saddened that these chains show a lack respect towards local communities. More specifically, we are determined to point out to Sainsbury’s that our town does not need or want their store. Indeed, a recent survey of Hebden Bridge residents found that 40% believe the town lacks “nothing” and only 14% believe it lacks another supermarket.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda collectively pledged to create 67,000 jobs between 2008 and 2010. Research by Financial Mail, using information gathered from supermarkets’ annual reports, suggests that they actually provided fewer than half this number of jobs. The New Economics Foundation has found that markets create twice as many jobs, per square foot, as supermarkets do – and that the food in markets tends to be cheaper, despite widespread beliefs that supermarkets are the place for affordable food(3). In fact, the New Economics Foundation claims that supermarkets “hoover wealth out of an area”; a claim backed by research undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in Leeds (4).
There are obviously planning issues specific to the old fire station location. We believe the site is not suitable for a supermarket, and that a supermarket would be detrimental to the area due to traffic, noise and waste issues. A further point is the lack of car parking in Hebden Bridge, which would be exacerbated by a sainsbury’s on the site, since not only would public carparking be lost, but more cars would likely drive to the area in order to use the store. Of course, large delivery vehicles would also become more frequent visitors to our narrow town centre streets.
Finally, the National Planning Policy Framework, which gives guidelines for a 15 year ‘town plan’ that local government must implement, states that local authorities “should have positive plans for town centres which set out vision over the long term”, and that these should be flexible, but should “support the vitality and viability” of town centres. These polices should also “sustain and encourage the ‘individuality’ of centres.”
Please say no to another supermarket.
1) Competition Commission in 2008: “The Supply of Groceries in the UK Market”
2) The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 2012
3) New Economics Foundation 2006 http://www.neweconomics.org/press/entry/markets-create-twice-as-many-jobs-as-supermarkets-and-food-is-half-the-price
4) NEF report, 2010