Sunday, 25 March 2012
Sainsburys look likely to make out like bandits at next week's Planning Committee meeting with two supermarkets recommended for approval, one at Cross Hands (as part of a council led 'mixed-use' project) and the other, of course, less than ten miles away, in the small market town of Llandeilo. A third application for an even larger store submitted by TRJ Ltd (and without a named retailer but with 'indicative plans based on a Morrisons design') in Ammanford is recommended for refusal.
Opinions are divided on the Llandeilo Sainsburys with, as you can imagine, local traders up in arms but local shoppers welcoming an alternative to the smaller, expensive Co-op stores currently in the locality, personally I don't feel strongly either way. What interests me is the process. Yet again our old consultant friends Atkins and Nathaniel Lichfield Partnership have done well out of the schemes with NLP acting as 'independent' advisors to the Council - these consultancies, including White Young Green Plc pop up all over the UK as either advisers to councils, or the usual giant retailers/developers, depending on which of their particular hats they are wearing.
The figures are odd to say the least with the prediction that both Llandovery and Llandeilo town centres will only suffer a 3% loss in trade and it will be supermarkets from further afield which lose out, this is clearly a tried and tested ploy. In reality, I imagine that nearly everyone in this large rural area will flock to Sainsburys for food, petrol and whatever else they will sell. Part of the agreement is for them to provide a shuttle bus, via the train station, between the town centre and the store, which far from ensuring a thriving town centre and 'reducing congestion', will more than likely just shuttle everyone to Sainsburys. The store will also provide a base for online order deliveries further reducing anyone's need to visit the local greengrocer. And, of course, all the money spent in the store will go straight out of Wales.
I see the planning officer's report begins "taken literally, the proposal would conflict with development plan policy" (the site is supposed to be for employment rather than retail, and it is 'out of town') and then there's the 'but', and with careful interpretation of policy and figures the scheme is perfectly acceptable even to the statement that an enormous grey steel clad shed will 'not have an unacceptable impact on the surrounding rural landscape'. Another argument put forward by NLP is that as Sainsburys do not currently have a foothold in Carmarthenshire it's about time they did (or in so many words).
I would imagine that refusing the scheme will not be an option for the planning committee as they will be warned that Sainsburys will have plenty of cash ready to fight an appeal and will be armed with a favourable officer report and, as usual, objectors will be deemed as 'standing in the way of progress'. Whether or not the Llandeilo store will be popular with shoppers is not a material planning consideration and if the recommendation for approval is based on questionable figures then the committee have a duty to look further than the end of their noses.
They may also remember that this site was one selected by Atkins as suitable for the new superschool to replace Pantycelyn and Tregib, and then, for various reasons, it wasn't, as the council wanted the Ffairfach site. The reasons it was deemed unsuitable were;
1) Green field site
2) Poor connectivity
3) Cost of bridge over A40
4) Increase in bus and private vehicle travel
5) High noise level from A40
6) Puts infrastructure constraints on the site
7) Detrimental impact on visual amenity
8) Significant adverse ecological impacts
9) High visibility from road
10) Lack of pedestrian links to the site
Clearly, as I predicted, it's all a bit different for Mr Sainsbury.
The reports and documents associated with the three applications are extensive and cover many issues which I do not have either the room nor the inclination to cover here, but for those of you interested in the contentious nature of supermarket planning applications it will be an interesting read.
(Llandeilo; Cross Hands; Ammanford)
Posted by caebrwyn at 14:51