Ecodyfi letters to Powys County Council
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After careful consideration of the likely advantages and disadvantages to Machynlleth and the Dyfi valley, ecodyfi has decided to object to Tesco’s plans to build a 18,417 square foot supermarket in the town.
Ecodyfi's submission to Powys County Council was based on the following points:
1. Machynlleth is not a dying town. Tesco’s consultants concluded that shop vacancy rates are substantially lower than the national average and that the centre “is generally vital and viable”. Let’s keep it that way. The main attraction of the town is its special character; an attractive collection of largely independent shops set in a well cared for historic and bilingual environment.
2. Planning policy states that significant developments have to have regard to the Welsh language and culture in Machynlleth. There is no reference to this in the application; no provision for bilingual customers or internal communications is mentioned.
3. Tesco has not established a need for a store of this size, as they are obliged to do under planning law. Machynlleth already has 13,000 square feet of supermarket and “convenience retail” space at the Co-op, Spar and Harry Tuffins. Can “the town and its immediate hinterland” (the relevant definition for a “District Retail Centre” such as Machynlleth in the Powys Unitary Development Plan) really need three times this space?
4. The results of the much quoted Household Survey carried out by Tesco’s consultants have been used misleadingly. The survey area was of communities within half an hour's drive of Machynlleth, such as Bow Street, Tywyn and Llanbrynmair. Of course many of these residents do their main weekly shop at Aberystwyth, Tywyn and Newtown – these places are in many cases nearer to their home than is Machynlleth!
5. In any case, many people are likely to continue to shop in these larger towns because they will still go there for other reasons, including work, study, cinema, theatre, non-food chain store retailing and the seaside.
6. The survey results are broken down by postcode area, but even this is misleading. SY20 sector 8 includes communities in Ceredigion as far south as Tre Taliesin, which is just over half way to Aberystwyth. Such residents habitually shop in Aberystwyth because of education, employment and family ties, yet are lumped into the statistics as if they live in Machynlleth. This is where the inaccurate statement comes from; that 34.1% of Machynlleth residents choose Morrisons in Aberystwyth for their main food shop. They don’t.
7. This same error leads Tesco to claim that the number of car journeys over the Dyfi Bridge will be reduced. Not so! Most of the people in the survey who shop in Tywyn and Dolgellau live north of the Dyfi Bridge. If they decide to choose Machynlleth instead, the bridge will suffer from additional traffic, not less. We have surveyed shoppers in Tywyn and Dolgellau and found that around half of them would indeed make this journey to a Tesco. The traffic lights proposed for the store access aren’t going to solve this serious congestion problem between the site and the railway station, or protect the bridge.
8. However, we can’t assume that many people would walk up to the town centre from a Tesco car park to use the local shops, as Tesco says they will. The shops don’t feel close. Only one side of the street has a continuous pavement and it narrows to just over a metre in width at one point. When two buggies or shopping trolleys met, one would have to bump off the kerb into the dangerously busy road! We do not believe this will be a popular and safe journey on foot and we think a feeling of “two Machynlleths” will develop.
9. The town centre would actually lose business to a Tesco store. The Tesco application itself puts this at 9% of current turnover. We believe this would affect 13 shops, and hence the vitality and viability of the town centre. In addition, Tesco expects the Co-op to lose about one third of its business. Their report doesn’t even mention the threat to the popular street market, which draws people in week after week.
10. Taken together with the likelihood of shop closures in town, and the commonsense argument that most of the turnover in a new Tesco would be displaced from shops elsewhere (since the majority of sales will be of food and people can only eat so much), the claim that the development will create a minimum of 140 additional full and part time jobs is not credible. There is no indication of how many full time equivalent posts Tesco expects to create, nor of how many it expects will be lost elsewhere as a result.
11. To top it all, to deal with congestion at the junction most affected by the development (the Town Clock junction of the A487/A489) Tesco proposes to put in a mini roundabout! Is there really space for this? How will pedestrians cross the roads safely?
Ecodyfi letters to Powys County Council:
The application from Tesco can be downloaded from www.keepmachspecial.org.uk