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Planners 'must learn from mistakes with out-of-town supermarkets', says council | Dec 2010

Spotted on Wednesday 29 December 2010 in Western Morning News from

Planners 'must learn from mistakes with out-of-town supermarkets', says council

Planners 'must learn from mistakes with out-of-town supermarkets', says council

Out-of-town supermarkets are creating a negative impact on town centres, a planning officer has claimed.

The remarks, published in official Cornwall Council documents regarding supermarket plans for Wadebridge in North Cornwall, said Cornish towns such as Padstow, Bodmin and Liskeard, were "driving out independent and unique businesses".

The comments, which claim council planners "need to learn from mistakes that have already been made in other towns", have divided those both in favour and against out-of-town developments across the county.

Chris Wilkes, chairman of Bodmin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the town had one of the lowest shop vacancy rates in the county despite having several supermarkets.

He said: "The small, independent shops can offer something that the larger chain stores can't – that fantastic level of customer service built from seeing the same faces, day in, day out.

"I suppose the introduction of supermarkets has meant those independent retailers have had to up their game as much as possible.

"Although they might not be able to always compete with the prices of supermarkets, they are able to offer a very personal customer service.

"We recently had a highly-successful late-night shopping opening event, which was well supported by residents. I think that, if those local traders continue to offer the very best service, there is no reason why they have nothing to fear from the big boys."

But others have claimed out-of-town developments are less beneficial.

Tim Jones, chairman of Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said: "This is an ongoing situation, but out-of-town supermarkets are having an impact on independent traders.

"I'm afraid the public has rather got used to shopping in supermarkets, much to the detriment of small businesses. Whether we like it or not, this situation is part of modern life and I feel it is irreversible.

"Yes, supermarkets can provide some sort of community payback by building a roundabout or a play ground, but that doesn't really help the smaller stores. All we can do is make sure supermarkets procure locally wherever they can."

Mr Jones agreed with some campaign groups that town centre supermarkets could, in fact, benefit local traders by luring customers into town.

But he said that in towns like Liskeard – one of those mentioned in Mr Smith's report – the possibility of large- and small-scale businesses in the same area were slim. He added: "The trouble is that most of our town centres are already developed to capacity. There isn't anywhere for new stores of any large size to go.

"In the ideal world we would have a supermarket and smaller traders in the same area, increasing footfall and encouraging people to shop locally."

A spokesman for Cornwall Council said the planning officer who made the statement, Gavin Smith, would not elaborate on his comments, made in a strategic planning review document.