A huge issue has exploded locally. A local college has opted to sell one of its sites. The fear locally is that this will be to a large supermarket group - Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Waitrose have all been mentioned, but to be fair, it has been difficult to separate rumour from fact. However, there are some tenacious and resourceful people round here. As a result of Freedom of Information requests and persistent calls and letters to councillors, officials and the college, some facts have started to emerge.
The local website has a particularly useful thread, here, which deals with the facts of the issue.
On there, our local councillor, Susan Ingham, chair of the Area Committee, has confirmed to a concerned resident a few facts too.
It is true that the College intend to sell the Hibbert Lane Campus and as an independent commercial organisation they are free to do whatever they believe is in the College’s best interest and the Council has no jurisdiction in that respect. As I understand it they have been in talks with various supermarkets and developers, but nothing has been agreed at this stage.
As far as planning permission goes, the Council Planning department is clear that the land in question is designated as housing. No retail development would be given consent outside the District Centre. The Hibbert Lane campus falls outside the District Centre and therefore any a planning application to develop a retail site is likely to be refused.
Councillor Ingham will be chairing the Area Committe meeting this Wednesday at the Senior Citizens Hall near Marple Library. I expect the numbers attending to be bigger than usual. Our family will be represented.
I have an open mind on many things. Believe you me I've weighed up all the options on this one. Getting a cheap bottle of milk will be much easier for a start. But you have to look at the bigger picture. The local festivals, the local businesses that struggle along, the strong sense of community makes this a different and special place. And there is no way on earth that a big supermarket on Hibbert Lane would be good for Marple. In fact, it would be a disaster. This needs to be resisted all the way.