Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the super marketplace

Following Bristol CC’s recent appalling decision to approve Sainsbury’s proposals for a new megastore at Ashton Gate, I’ve been reflecting just how much the big supermarkets appear to be taking over local communities (or perhaps the world?!).
In Bristol, according to BBC research, “at least 21 new supermarkets from the 'big four' chains were given the go-ahead” in and around the city in the past two years.
The relatively small market town of Thame in Oxfordshire, where we lived for over 20 years, is now facing the threat of another supermarket (Sainsbury’s) – it already has a Waitrose, Co-op and Sainsbury’s Express (plus ASDA and Tesco’s within 5 miles). A number of our friends have mounted a campaign to fight the proposals.
Yes, most of us use supermarkets for a proportion of our shopping but, worryingly in my opinion, they also have the financial muscle in both retail and town planning terms to transform communities for the worse (eg. they’re more than happy to throw big money at lawyers in the knowledge that Local Planning Authorities won’t be able to compete). It’s now all about market share – with one supermarket competing against another for prime (and not-so-prime) sites. It’s about profits for shareholders and the bigger you are, the more “successful” you will become.
To me, this just seems fundamentally wrong.
But the even more worrying thing is that people don’t seem to be “alive” to what is happening. It’s so easy for the big supermarkets to offer hard-pressed Local Authorities “town planning incentives”. Before we know it, supermarkets (both big+small) will become the ONLY source of food shopping for any of us.
I’m afraid today’s budget hasn’t done anything to help. According the BBC website:
“There will also be sweeping changes to the planning system - to make it more difficult for local people to block ‘sustainable development’” (note: it'll be very straightforward to tick such a sustainable box).

As a former architect, I am well aware of the frustrations of the town planning process but, even as the BBC’s Robert Peston acknowledged on tonight’s PM programme, some of the principal beneficiaries of this change will be… the supermarkets!
Unsurprisingly, a spokesman from Morrison's on tonight's Channel 4 News also welcomed the changes to the planning system and the 2% cut in Corporation Tax - acknowledging that it would "aid Company growth".
Oh good!

1 comment:

bigdaddystevieB said...

I don’t think people realise just how much supermarkets are taking over our lives.
Within ten years, I think supermarkets will be dominating virtually every aspect of our lives. By the time politicians wake up to this prospect, it could well be too late. High streets will soon consist of little more than stores operated by the “big six” supermarkets – they will swallow up chemists, butchers, bakers, greengrocers and newsagents…. but, why stop there? Why not estate agents, insurance, restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs too?