Sunday, August 21, 2011

Marple supermarket - the arguments for

There was a good turnout at the march against proposals for our local college to sell their site in Marple to a supermarket. I've been wrestling with a couple of the arguments against the protestors, I think they are worth airing.

The first is that this campaign is hypocritical. That the protestors do their "big shop" in big supermarkets away from Marple, supermarkets that will have had the same ruinous effect on other communities. There will, to be fair, be plenty of evidence of this, there will be research to say that people round here do go to other supermarkets. I know they do. We do. There IS an argument against all big supermarkets, but this isn't it. At issue is the suitability of this location. Contained within this objection is the inevitable accusation of Nimbyism. You have to take this one on the chin. Of course people directly affected by noise, disruption and compulsory purchase orders will object to it. But look again, that's not why most people are opposed.

Another argument against the protestors is that some competition is needed against the monopoloy of the Co-operative in Marple. A large supermarket on a site the size of the huge Hibbert Lane campus would provide a shabby and overpriced small supermarket with competition. It may even be that the Co-operative have opposed other applications by Tesco, Asda or Sainsbury's to open a store in Marple, even on a site their group owns. Firstly, I don't dispute the competition argument at all. There is a retail core in Marple that contains multiples like Boots, Superdrug, Iceland as well as independent retailers. I'm sure the local traders wouldn't be doing cartwheels about a Tesco Express, or a Sainsbury's Local (similar to the one in Romiley), but again, that's not the issue here. Personally, I'd welcome more retailers stimulating the core. It would attract people to the other businesses. This proposal, the price tag on such a large piece of land, however, offers only the potential to simply attract people in their cars to a big tin shed, and then leave again. A splinter of this view, by the way, is the economic determinism of big retail. That their march is inevitable and irresistable. I don't even think the big supermarkets have that view any more.

The third argument I came up against was about the place needing to be "livened up" as the youngsters went elsewhere. I must admit, I'm all in favour of any amount of livening up of the right kind, but I don't see how a massive supermarket is an attraction for young people. I used to marvel at how so many pie shops and sandwich bars were supported. This is because of the 6th Form College, it would appear. I'd rather there were educational opportunities here, than over there, that this community imported, rather than exported young people.

The fourth argument is about the importance of jobs and investment, that Marple is getting major investment that should be welcomed. I agree that the council have a responsibility to discuss opportunities with employers and investors. But it's also about the right ones in the right places. This is the wrong place.

An offshoot of this view is that the collapse of the housing market leaves the college with no other options? Even if you accept that view, and I don't, then I'm sorry, but this really isn't our problem. There are a number of reasons why Cheadle & Marple College need to juggle their estate. There will also be a range of commercial barriers to how that process is managed. One of them will have to be the unsuitability of Marple for large retail.

Finally, there are various comments that split hairs on the issue. There are debates, mainly on the Marple messageboard, over politics and tactics. Let's face it, any campaign will have these and in the internet age, this has been amplified 1000 fold. Then there are discordant views that because various things are wrong with what we have in Marple, so it then follows that this is a conservative campaign that seeks to protect the mediocre and defend the mistakes of the past. Mistakes in planning and architecture have been made, of course they have, nobody is saying this is some kind of utopian community. But if this campaign succeeds, then it will also serve to remind everyone about what we have and how it is "that we are where we are". It is a massive generational opportunity to debate what kind of community we want to have in Marple. And I think the local council (the officials and the politicians), need to bear that in mind as they decide in secret what they think is best.

So, if you arrived here thinking this was a pro-supermarket change of heart, I notionally apologise. But only a bit. I called it "the arguments for" because that's what it is addressing. As you can see, none of them have swayed me. In fact, of all of the above, the only one I hesitated on was the first. Well, an element of it. Our Friday night chat on the Rose Hill flier pondered a few "what ifs" about who would build on the site. If it was a big ugly Tesco or Asda, then it is an easy side to take. I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them. But what if Booths or Waitrose had their eye on it? I would love a Booths here. I would love the prestige it would bring to the area. No question. But the fact remains, this site is off the centre. This site is unsuitable for big retail. This site is large. There is still much to be done in the centre. Booths and Waitrose would be welcome in Marple. But not on Hibbert Lane.


Anonymous said...

Booths? Who are they, I'm not posh enough!

I thinking the main you are spot on, it really doesn't matter if it's Fortmun & Mason's or Netto, only a larger store woul dbe attracted by the college site.

The hysteria and misinformation put about by local gossip has mobilised the numbers, it's playing into the hands of the supermarkets when they declare that the store will not be as big/ugly as feared.

I think there is a good case againt the use of the site on account of the infrastructure but the college / supermarket will poin to ta demand for such as store as you rightly say, many people shop outside the area and there is a lack of competition for the co-op. For me, the co-op holds the Key as it has two properties that could be supermarkets. The empty shop on the parade next to the Italian & the building where M&co is. For me the empty store is not suitable, no supermarket would shoose that shop, however M&co is, especially as the upstairs is empty.

Morrosons & Asda have realised that they are both behind the game in the high street and have a strategy of getting into smaller stores. It would make sense to invite Morrosons into the M&co building and M&co to cross the road. The Co-op may lose business to a Morrosons but it stands to lose far more to a bigger supermarket on Hibbert Lane. In bringing in a supermaket to the centre, the argument for mor ecompetition and the demand for an extra supermarket is crushed in one go.

Intravenus Di Milo MP of Fulchester. An MP who's expenses claims will always remain hush hush.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog posts – Its really encouraging to see both sides of the debate circulated.

I'm new to Marple and still learning about the community so have observed the campaign from a distance. That said I’m pretty convinced that the introduction of a new Tesco’s supermarket on Hibbert Lane would have a detrimental effect on the town. But my message isn’t to the College or the Council or even Tescos, it’s to the those that will be hardest hit by the development: the local independent traders.

Even before the Hibbert Lane campaign I often wondered how many more years this wonderful town centre would continue to function. If local traders have any chance of weathering the storm of the multiples and megastores, they must, I’m afraid to say, raise their game. Or at the very least work together in a cohesive manner in order to safeguard (and even grow) their customer base.

Although we have a fantastic array of independent traders, local shopping in Marple town centre operates a 1950s-style opening and closing time schedules. There is a myriad of combinations of ‘closed Mondays’ ‘closed Wednesdays’ ‘half-day Saturdays’ and opening times ranging from 9am-11am’. The one thing that they all agree on is that they definitely closed by 5.30pm!

As it stands the target market of Marple traders would appear to be the OAPs and full-time parents. Lovely. The employed/professionals are the largest market segment and has the greatest spending power. However, it seems to have been completely overlooked and many shoppers are left with no other option but to spend their money in the supermarkets.

I often have to make 2 or 3 separate trips into town in order to complete local weekly shop. I recognise that these traders are working incredibly hard to stay in business and many of them are single handed and / or have little cross-cover. We would all like to go back to the days where we got home from work in time for tea and had all weekend to spend with our families. However, times have changed and communities must flex and adapt in order to survive.
With or without Tesco on Hibbert Lane, local shopping in Marple really needs to think more strategically about its commercial survival.

I will continue to tie myself in knots each week in order to spend my money with the independent shops and I will oppose the building of the new supermarket. But, I need the local traders to help me, help them.

Anonymous said...

I couldn’t agree more with that last comment. The local community is fighting hard to preserve the local shops: Now the local shops need to make themselves more attractive and accessible to the local people. Longer opening hours is a good example. So many commuters drive out of Marple before the shops open, and return after they have shut for the day. Some shops even close at lunchtime for those working in the town who want to do some quick shopping in their lunch hour.
There is a shopping loyalty scheme operated by some of the local shops: Don’t Miss Marple - this needs extending and promoting much more effectively. The shops need to club together with joint offers and promotions, with regular leaflet drops to the local residents, regular co-ordinated sales day events, maybe something their trade association could put together for them. They need to lobby the local council to scrap the payments for carparking (It’s not the cost, just the sheer inconvenience of having to hunt for change, find a ticket machine in the rain, etc. Other towns (Harrogate is an example) where free disc parking works well and prevents long term parking abuse.

Supermarkets, out-of-town shopping centres, online ordering/home delivery etc are all huge threats to shopping centres like ours in Marple. But if traditional local centre retailers could adopt some of their marketing and promotional methods they could survive yet.

Anonymous said...

it dose'nt matter what anybody thinks or objects to once the brown envolpes start to get passed around, and if we believe what we are tols that all the political parties are against it happening..........then how can it possibily happen??????

Anonymous said...

19why are people in marple so against the new asda /proposed shop .there arent any induvidual shops left in marlpe as it is .This is wot the no against asda keep saying as an excuse.its ok to live in marple if you want to eat at a different take out or bakery/every day.or change your hairstyle everyday of the week and to be ripped off by paying twice as much at the coop.I SAY YES TO NEW SHOP AND NEW JOB PROSPECTS FOR EVERY ONE.