Redevelopment of Farnborough town centre

Over the last three decades, supermarkets have slowly but surely taken control of about 80 per cent of the food we eat. Within that figure, a handful of supermarket superpowers account for around 70 per cent. The tentacles of this staggering concentration of power at the retail end of the food chain reach into all aspects of our lives. The look of our urban and rural landscape, the vitality of our high streets, our reliance on the car, the nature and quality of the food we eat – all these have been profoundly influenced by supermarkets. -- Joanna Blythman

The large amounts of free car parking offered by existing out of town supermarkets gives them an enormous competitive advantage over city-centre stores. In addition, supermarkets at these sites generate more car use, making the situation on already congested roads worse. -- DETR Select Committee

It allows the already dominant multiples to bring their strength back into the high streets and local neighbourhoods, eventually working against the interests of shoppers, suppliers and the livelihoods of the smaller independents ... They will also, in the long term, limit consumer choice and potentially lead to higher prices as competition eventually diminishes. Suppliers and consumers will be faced by a world dominated by two or three companies. -- Bill Grimsey, chief executive, Big Food Group

The assault on the character of town centres has been aided by planning and regeneration decisions that have drawn shoppers away from the high street and created a retail infrastructure hostile to small, independent businesses. -- New Economics Foundation

We have replaced our busy streets with hermetic office blocks, gated shopping precincts and bland chain stores that belong to councils and corporations but not to the people. At the same time we have tended to strip our town and city centres of old street markets and family-run businesses and to pedestrianise what were once lively shopping streets, creating urban deserts, especially after dark. -- Jonathan Glancey

Our observations to date suggest that proper local, devolved power is the best foundation and future for local economies to really belong to, and meet the needs of, local communities. Dynamic and diverse local economies also seem to be an essential safeguard for vibrant local democracy and strong local government. -- New Economics Foundation

The encroachment of Ghost Town Britain has been valiantly resisted by numerous everyday heroes up and down the country, many of whom have fought lengthy and unacknowledged battles to keep their local post office or bank branch open, save their community store or resist and reclaim the loss of community spaces and buildings. These struggles are, by and large, waged with little public fanfare – but are in essence supported by the vast majority of Britons, and are occasionally highlighted by the local press and even the Government as shining examples of British community spirit and entrepreneurship. -- New Economics Foundation

KPI application for demolition and redevelopment of the northern half of Farnborough town centre.

Planning ref: 04/00080/FUL

These comments should be read in conjunction with previously submitted comments.

This full planning application is not the same as the quashed outline applications, as the footprint is different, and although there has been a number of changes such as the inclusion of a hotel, and the change of office space to residential, it is still seriously flawed. The changes are insufficient to merit approval, therefore the objections raised to the outline applications still stand.

In submitting a new application February 2004, and amended plans September 2004, KPI have failed to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to alter their plans to satisfy objections and meet the wishes of the local community.

The main criticism of the KPI application has to be that it is not sustainable development and does not accord with government planning guidelines on sustainable development. Government guidance calls for retention and enhancement of open spaces, of the greening of town centres, of homes within town centres, reduction of the use of the car etc.

A secondary criticism is that it fails to meet the key point of the adopted town centre master plan: 'meet the shopping, leisure and service needs of the local community'.

It is claimed the purpose of the development is to (whereas most observers thought it was to make money for KPI):

These are laudable aims, it is just that the development does not meet them. What we have seen is the destruction of the vitality of the town centre, destruction of the wide variety of shops that were available. A superstore will simply accelerate the existing trend.

The lack of High Street names does not disadvantage a town, the lack of shops and an attractive environment does.

The strength of Farnham, and which makes it an attractive place to shop, is the relatively low number of High Street retailers, and the very large number of high quality independent retailers. Guildford, another attractive town centre, has a high number of quality independent retailers. Plus both towns have a large number of other attractions: monthly farmers markets, restauarants, castle, parks, theatre, small pubs etc.

It is widely recognised that the downside of modern retailing and town centres is what is referred to as 'clone town', where every town looks the same. Quality retail is not clone town.

Nick Foulkes writing in the London Evening Standard (1November 2001):

The homogenisation of our high streets is a crime against our culture. The smart ones get the international clones – Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Starbucks and Gap; while those lower down the socio-economic hierarchy end up with Nando’s, McDonald’s, Blockbuster and Ladbrokes.

New Economics Foundation:

In the place of real local shops has come a near-identical package of chain stores replicating on the nation’s high streets. As a result, the individual character of many of our town centres is evaporating. Retail spaces once filled with independent butchers, newsagents, tobacconists, pubs, book shops, greengrocers and family-owned general stores are becoming filled with supermarket retailers, fast-food chains, and global fashion outlets. Many town centres that have undergone substantial regeneration have even lost the distinctive facades of their high streets, as local building materials have been swapped in favour of identical glass, steel, and concrete storefronts that provide the ideal degree of sterility to house a string of big, clone town retailers. It’s a phenomenon that affects people whether they are rich or poor.

As every deep ecologist and system engineer knows, diversity is the key to survival. A town centre that consists of row after row of me-too copycat shops is ill-suited to survive or easily adapt to the winds of change.

Jane Jacobs (author The Nature of Economies):

In an ecosystem, the essential contributions made within the (natural) conduit are created by diverse biological activities, the essential contributions made within the (economic) conduit are created by diverse economic activities. ... The practical link between economic development and economic expansion is economic diversity.

Clone town does not lead to choice or contribute to the vitality of a town centre, it simply gives us the opportunity to buy whatever everyone else has been brainwashed into buying.

In Farnborough, it is not the lack of High Street retailers that leads to the 'low-key feeling', it is the complete lack of retailers, the lack of diversity that we once had, and boarded-up shops.

I will not reiterate government planning guidelines or highlight where these are not met as I am sure committee members by virtue of being on the committee will be aware and it will form part of their deliberations.

Destroying half of a town centre to build a superstore, destroying a small housing estate within yards of the town centre, destroying the quiet grassy area to be replaced by a tarmaced car park for a superstore, is not sustainable development.

Has the borough sustainable development officer cast his eye over these proposals and given his view? If not, why not?

The main criticism of the plans is the destruction of half the town centre, destruction of a mixed retail environment, to build a superstore. A superstore that will face out of the town centre to minimise leakage from the store to other retailers. Associated with the superstore is the destruction of social housing and associated open space for a car park for the superstore, for a net gain of around 50 car parking spaces.

A large number of retail units are destined to be destroyed to accommodate the superstore.

No one wants a superstore. The effect of a superstore is that of a neutron bomb, it kills off everything around it.

A moderate-sized, well-stocked supermarket, especially if surrounded and complimented by a wide range and variety of specialist independent shops is an asset to any town centre. A superstore, backed by a global retail chain, is not. It shows as much sensitivity to surrounding retail as a neutron bomb.

The view of shoppers in Farnborough is that we have one superstore in Farnborough, we live in an area surrounded by superstores, why therefore do we need another superstore in Farnborough within a hundred yards of an existing superstore that will kill off what little remains of existing retail in town?

We currently have a large store and a medium-sized store, ie consumer choice. With the existing Sainsbury's, shoppers can pop in, grab what they want and are out, unlike Asda, it does not take an hour or more to shop.

What we do need is a revamp of the existing Sainsbury's, and competent management that are capable of ensuring the shelves are kept stocked. This is not to cast a slur on the front-line staff who do an excellent job, it is unfortunate they are badly let down by the store management, who lack the same commitment to customer care.

Were the existing Sainsbury's store to be vacated, it would leave a large retail hole in Kingsmead and this part of Kingsmead would face retail meltdown as we have seen with the other parts of Kingsmead.

What shoppers and the few remaining retailers wish to see, is the northern half of the town demolished and replaced with a mixed retail environment. With the emphasis on small independent retailers. This would then make Farnborough an attractive place to shop. What they do not want is a either a superstore or a replica clone town.

It should be noted that before Arab-financed KPI with the collusion of their friends in the council trashed the town, we had a thriving town centre, there was no need for town centre regeneration.

So far, the KPI led 'regeneration' has consisted of the erection of two eyesores, which manage to make even the Queensmead 1960s architecture look good, relocation of existing retailers and a couple of charity shops. The downside has been the loss of a large number of local shops, including the town centre's last remaining independent baker.

KPI, therefore, no matter what their spokesmen on the council have to say, have a poor track record on town centre regeneration, and for Farnborough have been an unmitigated disaster.

A superstore with its own car park puts it at a competitive advantage to every other retailer in town.

Superstores kills jobs. On average, every time a supermarkets opens, 276 jobs are lost.

It is not only the jobs in the local retailers that go, it is also all the other secondary jobs that local retailers support. Local retailers use the services of local plumbers, accountants, solicitors, estate agents etc. All lose out when a superstore arrives.

This loss of secondary jobs will get even worse when the shakeup of the legal profession dies down. Superstores are already moving into banking, finance and insurance in a big way. Tesco have announced they intend to offer one-stop legal services (which will include accountants and tax advice) once the law reforms go through, other supermarket chains will follow the market leader. The supermarkets will cherry pick, leaving the crumbs for the few remaining businesses.

As banks move more of their business on-line, as superstores compete, we could find our local banks go the same way as the local Post Offices, and there has already been a wave of bank closures following rationalisation within the industry.

By the end of 2002, Britain had lost one-third of its bank branch network in a decade. There are 800 communities across Britain with no bank left and according to the Campaign for Community Banking Services, 1,087 rural and urban communities have just a single branch remaining.

Loss of banks leads directly to the loss of local businesses.

Superstores kill off surrounding retailers. Superstores engage in predatory pricing to kill off the competition. The effect is felt up to 15 miles away.

This means a superstore in Farnborough will not only kill off what little retail is left in Farnborough, it will also inflict damage, possibly fatal, on retailers in North Camp and Aldershot.

The Council admits that a superstore will lead to increased competition for the few remaining retailers. The few remaining retailers are either sliding into bankruptcy or just hanging on. They cannot survive any further knocks. Therefore by the Council's own admission, a superstore will not regenerate the town.

As predicted (see comments on outline application), Virgin Records closed at the end of August 2004.

We have recently lost Dixons and Virgin Records. They saw they could not compete with a superstore. They saw there was no future in Farnborough.

The closure of Virgin Records has led directly to the closure of the skateboard shop. The kids who shopped in Virgin also shopped in the skateboard shop. With the closure of Virgin, the kids no longer saw any reason to come into Farnborough. The skateboard shop saw an immediate and dramatic drop in its customers. The skateboard shop closed at the end of September 2004.

Superstores are moving away from food (where they make no money) and into more profitable areas.

Of every additional £5 of profit of supermarkets, by 2007 £4 will come from non-food sales. By 2007, non-food sales is expected to have grown by 71% to £20 billion per annum. This non-food sales has to come from somewhere. It will come from the High Street retail chains who increasingly find they cannot compete.

If a superstore opens, Farnborough will lose Iceland, Boots, Woolworths, WH Smith, Peacocks and Debenhams.

Woolworths recorded first half losses in excess of £30 million for the first half of 2004. Losses: first half 2003 £34.9m, first half 2004 £32.9m.

WH Smith has recorded its worst ever loss in its 212-year history, an annual pre-tax loss of £135 million. Sales fell by 2%, with the company badly hit by falling book and music sales. WH Smith has been struggling to cope with intense competition from specialist retailers and supermarkets.

Boots is facing tough competition from supermarkets over toiletries and pharmaceuticals. It has been forced to axe areas into which it had only recently expanded. Boots Opticians may be forced to close if competition worsens.

Tesco sells more pharmaceuticals and toiletries than Boots and Superdrug combined. Asda aims to be the third or fourth optical retail chain by the end of 2004.

Asda is now the top UK retailer of clothes, having knocked Marks and Spencers from the top position.

Asda is selling jeans at £4 a pair. Peacocks, like Matalan, is a cheap clothing chain, but they found they could only maintain these low prices for the brief period of a summer sale. If Peacocks cannot compete on price, when price is their selling point, then no-one can compete.

A book or CD or DVD does not make it into the Top 10 unless it is sold by the supermarkets.

Tesco sells more chart CDs than HMV. Supermarkets have 80% of the best selling book titles. It is nigh impossible for a CD to make it into the No 1 slot if it is not sold by Tesco. 1 in every 5 CDs is bought from a supermarket.

Imagine a third of the people who do their shopping in Farnborough do half their shopping in the proposed superstore. This is money that is no longer flowing through the tills of local retailers. The few remaining retailers are on a knife edge, they cannot sustain any further loses. More retailers close. This has a knock on effect. People either no longer come to Farnborough as they find better choice elsewhere or they are left with no choice other than to shop in the superstore.

The town centre then collapses. All that will remain will be boarded-up units, fast food outlets, pound shops, charity shops and bars for binge drinking to break the monotony and yobs on the streets.

Not a lot different to either Farnborough or Aldershot as they are seen today. Both towns are suffering from bad development and poor planning decisions.

If, the presence of a superstore revitalises a town, why has not Asda revitalised Farnborough? If, the presence of a superstore revitalises a town, why has not Tesco revitalised Aldershot?

Superstores extract money from the local economy. Local shops recycle money within the local economy.

And where are the customers to come from for the superstore, in an area saturated with superstores?

From Aldershot? Not very likely. Tesco is nearer. And if you prefer Sainsbury's, far more likely to visit the Sainsbury's on the outskirts of Farnham. The Sainsbury's in Farnham town centre is expanding onto the site of the demolished Redgrave Theatre leading to a much larger Sainsbury's, part of a redeveloped and expanding town centre.

From Camberley? Not very likely. Not when there is nearby a large Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer and a good supermarket in the town centre which is being refurbished.

From Guildford? Anyone who thinks shoppers will visit Farnborough from Guildford, or indeed from any of the towns further afield, other than for a very specialist shop, is living in a fantasy world.

KPI claim the new superstore will be Sainsbury's. Sainsbury's themselves have made no such claim!

When pushed, KPI are unable to provide any evidence that it is Sainsbury's. They have claimed numerous retailers are lined up to come to Farnborough. Who are they? Is Farnborough the only town in the country where retailers do not fanfare their imminent arrival?

I'm sure everyone will remember the cinema farce. KPI had more cinema chains lined up for Farnborough than exist in the country. Strange though that they could never name any of them. I am sure the committee noticed as they passed from the council offices to the town centre on their recent site visit the new cinema we were told was coming to Farnborough. If a new cinema is being built, then why has the car park been recently resurfaced?

A spokesman for the board of Sainsbury's has stated: The development in Farnborough is a KPI development, Sainsbury's has no involvement in this development. The spokesman then went on to helpfully qualify the statement: The only connection Sainsbury's has had with KPI, is that KPI have talked to Sainsbury's about the possibility of a lease. [pers comm June 2004]

It is not only Kingsmead and Queensmead that are being hit by KPI.

Princess Mead is now suffering too. The china shop will close in January 2005, the row of adjacent shops are considering their options as business plummets.

The Tuesday market is close to collapse. Each week, the fruit and vegetable stalls close earlier and earlier.

Since writing 'The infrequent Saturday farmers market has all but collapsed', I have learnt that it has, next year we will only have one farmers market, if that (possibly September 2005). The farmers have decided to pull out of Farnborough as it is not worth visiting. Yet another example of the damage KPI has inflicted on our town with the help of their friends on the council.

We are constantly fed garbage that our town is being regenerated. No, it is being destroyed. The talk of regeneration conveniently ignores the fact that we did not need regeneration or why we are in this state.

Six years ago, that is before KPI bought the town centre, we had a thriving town centre. Since then, KPI, with the collusion of their friends on the council, have systematically laid waste to the town.

We are told a pack of lies, that our town is being regenerated, that everyone welcomes the KPI proposals. The truth is somewhat different. Everyone who can, has voted with their feet – shoppers, retailers, market traders, farmers – all have voted with their feet and left Farnborough. That is the ultimate vote of confidence in the KPI plans, everyone voting with their feet and deserting Farnborough.

The few retailers who remain, do not remain by choice. They remain, because they cannot find another mug to take on their lease or buy a failing business. They are not at fault that their businesses are failing, the fault lies entirely with KPI and their friends in the council.

As Peter Newman, of Fingz Fashion, Kingsmead, wrote a couple of years ago:

In 1996 there were five empty units in Queensmead, right now there are five left. Is that progress? The whole plan is totally unrealistic. After four years and the destruction of the town centre, all there is to show for it is the loss of over 70 businesses.

Things have got much worse since then. Fingz Fashion, is no longer trading in Kingsmead, they have joined the steady exodus of retailers leaving Farnborough. Retailers, who, like the local community, have no confidence in the KPI plans, no confidence in the council to act in the best interests of the local community. And what do our councillors do? They sit idly by and wring their hands or look around to scapegoat anyone other than themselves. They lash out at members of the community, people who have been doing their best to safeguard the town.

Rushmoor councillors do an excellent job acting for KPI. It is a pity they do not perform the same service for the local community or local retailers.

It is going to take ten years or more for Farnborough town centre to recover from the damage KPI and their friends in the Council have inflicted on the town. And that is if we are lucky. It may never recover. And the chances are, it will never recover.

The destruction of Firgrove Court is not justified. The people who live there have made it very clear they do not wish to move.

A legal agreement has been drawn up between KPI and Pavilion which allegedly protects the interests of Firgrove Court. Has the committee seen this agreement and fully understood its contents and implications as they are being asked to approve a planning application on the assumption that the interests of Firgrove Court are protected?

Setting to one side for the moment that the residents of Firgrove Court do not wish to move, they are not aware of this agreement, let alone seen or approved its contents.

Any agreement to protect Firgrove Court should be with the residents of Firgrove Court or agents acting on their behalf. Pavilion have not been appointed to act on behalf of the resident of Firgrove Court.

No copy of this agreement could be found in the public file in the planning department. [checked 6 October 2004]

At a recent private briefing by Pavilion to Rushmoor councillors (August 2004), Pavilion chief executive Mervyn Jones was forced to concede that there had been no consultation with the residents at Firgrove Court. He then lamely added that his door was always open.

At a meeting with Mervyn Jones early this year (January 2004), the scandal surrounding Firgrove Court was raised. Mervyn Jones refused point blank to discuss the matter. So much for his door being always open. He did though admit that no consultation had taken place, and referred to Rushmoor consultation, which of course has been nonexistent, despite claims to the contrary.

On the recent site visit (October 2004), the committee will of course have noticed the very poor state of repair of Firgrove Court, rotten windows, faulty guttering, water pouring down the walls, large damp patches on the walls. This neglect is being used by Pavilion to try and 'encourage' their tenants to leave. It is known as 'harassment by neglect', a criminal offence.

The committee will have also noticed the large grassy area which is overlooked by the maisonettes. Had the committee visited during the daytime, during the summer, rather than skulking around in the gathering autumn dusk, they would have noticed it was used by the children as a safe area to play. If the committee cares to look at the plans for the Solartron site, two blocks of flats and a car park, they will understand why the residents of Firgrove Court do not wish to move, as there is no equivalent open grassy area for the community to share.

It is widely recognised that community open space contributes to the cohesion of a community. There is also evidence to suggest that the presence of green open spaces positively contributes to people’s physical and mental health, particularly that of children. In May 2002, a Government task force made an explicit link between the degradation of green spaces and the decline in social trust.

“In the past two years,” begins a 2001 report by the Greater London Authority (GLA), “policy makers have woken up to two vital facts. On the one hand, [there is] the central contribution made by green space to the quality and sustainability of urban life. On the other, [there is] the neglect, deterioration and loss of green space in recent decades.”

Then Regeneration Minister Sally Keeble, warned of the emergence of a two-tier leisure culture, whereby those with the means to pay retreat to private health clubs while the country’s public green spaces face neglect and crumbling amenities.

We are creating this two-tier social exclusion in Farnborough through poor planning and bowing to the greed of developers. Those with the means will have private leisure space, at a price, those who lack the means, are even to be deprived of a patch of open green space. Open green space that is dismissed by our planners as 'inefficient use of land' and 'not conducive to good planning or good urban design'.

The lack of open space, together with supermarkets and junk food outlets peddling fast food, has led to an epidemic of childhood obesity.

Had the committee not gone round when the autumn daylight was rapidly failing, they would have noticed at least a dozen of the maisonettes are sitting empty. Pavilion has trashed the maisonettes, ripping out kitchens and bathrooms, to render the properties uninhabitable. Strange behaviour for a so-called Registered Social Landlord, especially in light of local demand for social housing and the number of people on the council housing list.

The committee would of course had looked at the Solartron site, relevant as it is linked to this application, where they would have seen no sign of any building work taking place.

To destroy Firgrove Court is to destroy good quality housing stock. Yes, it is in poor state of repair, rotten windows, damp walls, water pouring off blocked gutters etc, but that is down to a bad landlord failing to carry out their repair responsibilities and negligence on behalf of the borough housing department to enforce repairs and to advise tenants of their rights. It is grounds for repair, it is not grounds for demolition.

It is falsely claimed that it is okay to abuse the human rights of the residents of Firgrove Court as it is in the public interest. It is clearly stated that Firgrove Court has to be demolished as a superstore would not be interested if it had to use existing town centre car parks and did not have its own car park. And why does a superstore want its own car park? To put itself at a competitive advantage and to minimise leakage to other stores. Thus the car park is needed for the competitive advantage of the superstore. Granting a superstore a competitive advantage, is not to act in the public interest.

The car park will have 275 car parking spaces, but the development will lose around 220 car parking spaces, thus a net gain of only around 50 car parking spaces. That is, for every home destroyed we will have a net gain of only 2 car parking spaces. This is a very high price to pay for the commercial advantage of a superstore, a home to be destroyed for every 2 car parking spaces for the superstore.

The planners claim Firgrove Court is an inefficient use of land. To demolish social housing for a car park must surely be an even less efficient use of the land, especially as it will only result in a net gain of around 50 car parking spaces?

The extra car parking spaces are not even required. Far in excess of 50 car parking spaces exist in the town centre at any time of the day. Thus we are destroying 28 maisonettes, not because the car parking is needed, but because it grants a competitive advantage to a superstore.

We are told that Firgrove Court would not be an asset to the redevelopment, but as it is across the road, it is neither an asset nor a detriment, on the other hand, the parade of shops on Victoria Road, tucked beneath the development, is to remain. A curious anomaly!

Failure of the committee to act to protect the human rights of the residents of Firgrove Court would be an offence under the Human Right Act.

It has been falsely claimed that:

No evidence has been produced to to support these ludicrous claims. Plenty of evidence exists to the contrary.

In 2000, the Competition Commission found large supermarkets to be operating against the public interest.

Does the committee really wish to be placed in the position of having to defend these claims in the High Court? To be forced to quash planning consent three times in a row? To be made a laughing stock? To face the possibility of being surcharged?

Tesco killed off Aldershot. Asda did not kill off Farnborough but it took a lot of trade away from the town, it forced the closure of small food retailers.

Stand outside Asda any time of the day. Shoppers arrive by car. With trolley they go into Asda, do their shop, then leave with loaded trolley, offload into the car and drive away. Very few venture into Princess Mead. Even fewer pass through Princess Mead into the rest of the town.

The pattern of shopping in the medium-sized Sainsbury's is radically different. Many shoppers have baskets rather than trolleys, they walk out of the store, shopping in hand, and wander around what little remains of the town.

The committee did of course visit Asda during the site visit to assess the impact of the existing superstore on the town centre and to observe the pattern of shopping when a superstore faces out of a town centre overlooking its own car park.

Superstores generate traffic, a lot of traffic. All of which will be channelled down Victoria Road. One superstore causes £25,000 of pollution, congestion and associated damage in a local community every week. Then there are the deliveries. 25% of the road freight in the UK is supermarket traffic.

As Asda has demonstrated, there are conflicts between superstore deliveries and local residents. It is difficult to see how this store can be serviced without destroying the peace and quiet of surrounding residents, far more than are affected by Asda. And that is not counting the residents who will be living above the store.

Deliveries to the retail units at the back of the superstore will be a problem. Elsewhere in the town lorries can deliver to the back of a store, but not here. There is one delivery access point, goods then have to be transferred down a narrow passageway to service nine stores. More than one lorry arrives and they will be stacked up down the street, as only one lorry at a time can be offloaded. As the lorries back up, they will block the access for delivery to the superstore, they will then back up onto Victoria Road causing local grid lock on an already overloaded road.

The same narrow passageway will be used to carry out refuse.

If there is a fire in any of these shops and the front exit is not usable, everyone will have to pass out of the back of the shop, only they will not have passed into safety, they will find themselves in a narrow passageway which they will have to navigate before they reach safety. This is a potential deathtrap, and the development cannot proceed with such a dangerous design flaw.

It is well documented that superstores do not revitalise town centres, that they do not act in the public interest.

Napoleon called us a nation of shopkeepers, we are rapidly becoming a nation that shops in superstores. Half the nation now shops in only 1,000 superstores.

In the 1950s supermarkets had only 20% of the grocery market, now they have 80% and want what little remains.

As Joanna Blythman (author of Shopped) writes: 'Statistics on small shops reads like casualties of a curiously uneven war.'

In 2000, when the DETR Select Committee was looking at the impact of supermarkets, it noted that the number of independent grocers in the UK had fallen from 116,000 in 1961 to only 20,900 in 1997.

Figures for independent grocers show that 62,000 independent grocers in 1977 had dropped to only 23,960 in 2001. Over the same period, independent butchers had dropped from 25,300 to 8,344.

Something like two-thirds of butchers have gone out of business in the last twenty five years.

These depressing statistics are repeated throughout the entire retail sector, post offices, newsagents, off-licenses etc.

The Manchester School of Management has predicted that if current trends continue, by 2050 there will not be a single independent retailer left in the UK.

In 2001, there were less than 12,000 rural shops left in the UK, and they are closing at the rate of 300 a month.

Farm gate prices are forced below the cost of production. It is only subsidies that keep farmers in business. The subsidy going straight through to the supermarkets in lower farm gate prices and higher profits. Several farmers a week go bust, one farmer a week commits suicide.

What has happened to milk and dairy farmers is illustrative of the abuse of suppliers and farmers by the supermarkets.

In the last decade, the retail price of milk has risen from 41p to 48p a litre. The farm gate price has fallen from 24p to 18p a litre, very often below the cost of production. The impact on farmers is that 40 dairy farms a week, more than 2,000 a year, are going under. Of the farmers left, they are attempting to survive on an income of £2-90 an hour. The poor cow is being hard hit too. A dairy cow used to produce 5-6,000 litres a year, now they are being pushed to over 12,000 litres a year.

The big dairies are faring little better. Tesco recently dropped Dairy Crest causing their share price to plummet. A handful of dairies supply the big supermarket chains.

No matter how it is measured – loss of income, suicides, farms going bust, acres of monoculture, loss of traditional varieties and breeds – supermarkets have been an unmitigated disaster for British agriculture.

1 March 2001, Tony Blair told farmers that: 'the supermarkets have pretty much got an arm-lock on you people at the moment'.

Third World producers fare far worse.

Just one example will suffice to demonstrate the impact of a superstore on a small town:

Swainsthorpe was, until two years ago a thriving market town in the Norfolk Broads. The High Street had a supermarket, fishmongers, baker, butcher, fruit-and-veg shop, Co-op, clothes shop, three pubs, three cafés and a variety of other businesses, all were prospering. November 2002, a Tesco superstore and filling station opened. The impact was devastating, it was as though the town had been hit by a neutron bomb. Within weeks the fishmonger closed, the Co-op turned into a funeral parlour, the clothes shop closed, one of the pubs closed, these were soon followed by the bookshop, the fruit-and-veg shop, the gift shop, the local petrol station and finally the local Somerfield supermarket.

Nigel Dowdney runs one of the local independent shops in what was once thriving Swainsthorpe:

Tesco says it attracts trade to towns such as ours but there is not one single business in the High Street, from the shoe shop to the DIY store to the florist, that has not had a drop in turnover – mine fell by 50 per cent in the week after Tesco opened.

We now have empty shops and boarded-up pubs. What used to be a High Street full of people is now empty and silent.

Swainsthorpe was a thriving town centre and could not survive a superstore. Farnborough is not thriving, it has been brought to its knees by KPI and councillors who are happy to collude with KPI in that destruction. We have councillors whose statements to the press, whose comments on regeneration and bogus claims the redevelopment is wanted, would do justice to Joseph Goebbels.

I could give many many more examples of towns like Swainsthorpe that have been destroyed by the neutron bomb of a superstore. I have yet to see any evidence produced to support the ludicrous claim that a superstore regenerates a town centre. Global supermarket chains are not in the business of town centre regeneration, they are not charities, they are in the business of killing off the competition, establishing local monopolies.

Superstores do not revitalise towns, superstores do not act in the public interest. Superstores kill towns, superstores act in their own commercial interest.

Superstores have passed through Phase I where they destroyed independent food retailing. Having passed through a period of consolidation, they are now embarking on Phase II where they intend to destroy the High Street. Everything we need to buy will be under one roof in a superstore, the ultimate one stop shop.

David Reid, deputy chairman of Tesco:

It's not good enough. We have got only 5% of the non-food market. We have 18% of the grocery market and there's 90% of the non-food market to go for. And we are up against overpriced high street stores. There's a lot left to go for.

Sir Archie Norman, former boss of Asda:

The supermarket industry is a cut-throat business where companies try to kill each other off.

Anyone who believes that two superstores operating in a town centre within a hundred yards of each other, one backed by the largest company in the world (whose annual turnover exceeds the GDP of all but the 30 largest national economies), will leave any other retail in town, are living on another planet.

Simon Andrews (general store manager Asda) has said that if another superstore opens in town, Asda will compete on price leaving nothing else standing in town. [pers comm]

Maybe our councillors wish to see Farnborough become two drive-in supermarkets with their own car parks and little else left, if so, then let us see a little honesty. But please do not come out with the usual humbug that you are concerned about the town and its retailers, as the trail of bankrupt retailers KPI have left in their wake tells a different tale.

The size of the development requires an environmental survey to be carried out. Has one been carried out?

Failure to carry out an environmental survey is to breach an EU Directive.

The size of the development requires a retail survey to be carried out. It has been claimed in the past that one has been carried out, and yet requests to both the council and the developer do not produce copies.

How can such a survey be carried out without talking to either shoppers or retailers? Why has the retail survey not been distributed to retailers to seek their views?

The retail survey in the public file is waffle and cannot be taken seriously. It states that Guildford, Farnham, Woking have much better shopping centres, notes the number and range of quality retail chains, that Guildford has two department stores, although fails to note the large number of quality independent retailers in Farnham and Guildford or the other attractions that both towns have. Mention is made of the Friary Centre in Guildford, but that is not why people shop in Guildford. That Aldershot is crap and offers no draw to anyone, is also mentioned.

The retail survey then draws the bizarre conclusion, that building a superstore will attract 30-60% of people to Farnborough from other towns. The obvious questions to ask is why? Why would anyone come from surrounding towns for a food superstore, when they already have plenty on their doorstep?

The retail survey also assumes new retail units will draw in new retailers. Why? Retailers come to town because there is custom on the street passing their doors not because new retail units are available. We did not see this on the old Post Office site. All we got was relocated retailers who were forced to move and two charity shops.

This new application has retained the superstore (the controversial element), but significantly reduced alternative retail space. Why? This contradicts the assertion that the new development will bring in new retailers. It shows that even the developer lacks confidence the development will attract new retailers and has cut his cloth accordingly.

The new application has scaled down the footprint for the superstore from the original concept drawings. Why? No explanation is given.

The retail survey conveniently ignores the fact that a superstore will drain custom away from existing shops. A process that is well documented across the country.

That Surrey-Heath have now dropped their objections, is further evidence that the development will not be attracting shoppers from further afield.

The only place likely to suffer is Aldershot. And if we are realistic, not even Aldershot will suffer as it will be two crap towns competing with each other, and if shoppers from Aldershot go elsewhere it is more likely to be Farnham or Guildford, both easily accessible from Aldershot by a good train service, whereas Farnborough is not.

Why has there been almost no notification, no official notice posted in the street? I can count on one hand the number of affected people who have been notified. And they were only notified of the September amendment, I can find no-one who was notified of the February submission. This includes retailers whose business are affected, residents whose homes are earmarked for destruction. I have seen no official Notice posted on the street.

No doubt the usual bogus claims of widespread consultation will be made.

The applicant did not circulate details of either the application or amended application to their tenants. The applicant did though tell retailers at a meeting late September 2004 that they expected to be granted planning consent in October 2004. This would appear to take the decision of the committee as a foregone conclusion which does not say a lot for the integrity of the committee. But maybe the committee will prove the applicant wrong and show that they are not a political football whose vote can be taken for granted.

The owners of Princess Mead, Standard Life Investment Funds, claim to be in favour. Their comments were made in the absence of consulting the retailers in Princess Mead.

Shops on the northern side of The Mead, part of Princess Mead, appear to be earmarked for future demolition. If correct, this is something the retailers themselves are unaware of.

Why are details of these plans not on the Rushmoor website? Apart from that is within the agenda for the planning committee (13 October 2004). A search was made using the planning reference, Queensmead, Kingsmead, Firgrove Court, Solartron, as key words. Nothing! [search on 4 October 2004, ie three days after expiration of official deadline for comments]

It is claimed KPI consulted via a manned exhibition. I have a copy of this exhibition, with a covering letter from KPI stating it is similar to their planning application, ie not the same. The exhibition gave a one-sided presentation.

In previous deliberations the committee and officials have demonstrated they are completely out of their depth with no understanding of the damaging impact this development will have on the existing retailers.

Expert opinion should be sought. Consultants should be brought in to advise the committee. I suggest the advice of the New Economics Foundation be sought as they have already done extensive work in this area.

The superstore and destruction of Firgrove Court are the main criticisms, but there are other criticisms.

Housing people in multistory tower blocks is a failed social experiment. At a time when other local authorities are demolishing such housing, Rushmoor is considering granting permission to build more.

Cramming people in overpriced shoeboxes in high rise flats several stories high, does not enhance the quality of the living environment or deliver 'enhanced residential accommodation' or encourage people to live in the town centre. Especially when part of the proposals involve kicking people out of the town centre to make way for a car park.

The application does not support the required quota of social housing, and account has not been taken of the loss of housing at Firgrove Court, which should be added to the quota. The Solartron site, which in any case is non-existent, should not be counted as it is a different planning application, whereas the demolition of Firgrove Court forms part of this application.

That KPI has high costs (actually they don't), is not an excuse for having a low percentage of social housing.

The unsuitability of this location, ie above a superstore, and the conflict with other users, can be seen by looking at the residential properties on the old Post Office site and the conflicts that have already arisen. These properties have, in the main, been bought to let. Those renting are already wanting to move out.

The residential element has too many one-bedroom apartments. We are in danger of creating the same ghettos as we have created in Aldershot. The number of one-bedroom apartments should be drastically reduced and replaced by three- and four-bedroom apartments.

We should be creating mixed residential, not urban ghettos.

The residential accommodation has no provision made for open space. This is even more relevant when we consider the loss of residential open space at Firgrove Court. A financial compensation in lieu of open space is not acceptable.

In May 2002, a Government taskforce pointed out that “the condition of parks and green spaces can make or break plans to regenerate neighbourhood and improve townscapes, create a sense of place and build community”.

Why is the car parking for the flats on the same floors within the tower blocks as the flats? To drive in and out, it will be necessary to cross from one block to another, then across to the multi-story car park, then down the ramps in the multi-story, through the barrier, and out onto the service road. It would be a lot easier for the cars to be parked on the surface level, ie superstore car park, and access the cars via a lift or the stairs.

In fact, better still, would be a sub-level car park as is the norm in Europe, accessed by a barrier. This could also be used for the superstore, on a different level for public access, with lifts to and fro the car park. If this solution was followed there would be no requirement for Firgrove Court.

I am very surprised at the lack of objections from the head of housing. Rushmoor has a long waiting list for social housing, and yet the head of housing fails to raise objections to the low quota of social housing. There is a severe shortage of 3- and 4-bedroom social housing, locally people living in overcrowded accommodation, eg a couple and four young children forced to live in 2-bedroom housing, and yet no objections raised at the lack of 3- and 4-bedroom flats. The head of housing did of course review the legal agreement between Pavilion and KPI to ensure social housing tenants are duly protected? If not, why not?

But then I am not really surprised, when she has turned a blind eye to the fact that there are around a hundred empty properties in the town centre, a blind eye to the fact that Pavilion are deliberately trashing properties at Firgrove Court to render them uninhabitable. And then refuses to answer questions.

A case of dereliction of duty? A case of maladministration that maybe the Ombudsman should be invited to investigate?

Why is the council so keen to promote a nighttime economy? Quality restaurants is one things, large bars etc is another. Look at Guildford, Fleet and Aldershot, which have a thriving nighttime economy and the trouble it brings. Such an economy is in conflict with the council's stated objective to clampdown on antisocial behaviour.

Nighttime economy and residential do not mix. Ask the residents who live in Aldershot town centre.

A ban is to be in place to prevent the leisure element to be used as a night club. No doubt to be relaxed in the future. But what of other leisure uses? A large bar for binge drinking? This would be in the same tower block as the flats.

The fast service road cuts in half the superstore car park. This is not safe.

Who will ultimately own and control this car park? Will there be a charge for using the car park? If there is to be a charge, to who will the revenue accrue? If the revenue is to accrue to the council, why is this not stated, as the council would have a vested interest in the proposals. If the car park is to be controlled by the superstore, this will give the superstore a double competitive advantage, as not only will it have its own car park which other retailers lack, it will also be providing free car parking.

Access from Victoria Road to the southern end of Queensmead is diminished, not improved. There will no longer be access from the northern end through the northern half of Queensmead as the highway will be built upon. It will be necessary to walk around the superstore.

No provisions have been made for the tenants living in the flats above the shops in the northern half of Queensmead whose homes are earmarked for demolition. These tenants have been trying to contact KPI to ascertain their future. Not only does KPI refuse to discuss the matter (no one is ever available to take their calls) they fail to return calls. So much for the consultation it is claimed has taken place between KPI and their tenants.

The development is a breach of the Human Rights of these residential tenants. Failure of the committee to safeguard these rights is in itself a breach of the Human rights Act.

The first floor of the hotel overlooks at the back the roof of the superstore. It would be easy to climb up onto the roof and enter the hotel through an open first floor window.

A number of reports are part of the KPI application, only one, the almost worthless retail assessment, was found in the public file. [checked 6 October 2004]

The development includes no community space, somewhere for the community to meet. For a development of this scale, there should be a community contribution, a 'bung' as it is known in the trade.

Community space serves five critical roles in society: a venue for civic engagement and participation, a point for delivery of services to the members of the community, a place where individuals, including the socially excluded, can seek support, a space to hold activities with a social interest, such as local clubs etc, and a location for private functions.

For details of other points of objection which have not been resolved, please see previous objections as referred to above, but for convenience, referenced again here:

Good points? The provision of small-scale office space to support small business. Small business, contributes to the local economy and generates jobs. The amount of small office space should be increased.

These proposals are ill-thought through and do not in any way enhance the town. It is hard to believe KPI have had six years to get their act together and this is the best they can come up with

What is happening in Farnborough is not unique, too many town centres across the UK are being ripped apart by developers, leaving behind wastelands.

New Economics Foundation:

Although the picture is bleak, many people are swimming against the tide to help breath life back into communities. But one great remaining danger is that, perversely, some neighbourhood renewal strategies focused around rebuilding town centres and shopping areas have driven out small local shops and replaced them with the multiple retailers.

If the Council is serious about regenerating Farnborough, and the local community has yet to see any evidence that it is, then it has to work with the local community, not against. The only successful regeneration schemes have risen from the bottom up, not been imposed from the top down. This means working with the local community. It also means helping local businesses. All successful regeneration schemes have been led by successful local businesses. But for local traders to be successful, they need the support of the Council, support which to date has not been forthcoming. This applies to Aldershot, just as much as Farnborough.

Building a superstore, building a few retail units in the vein hope of attracting High Street retail chains, has absolutely nothing to do with town centre regeneration.

In 2001, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report warning that some neighbourhood regeneration strategies have driven out local shops and replaced them with multiple retailers. The report, authored by a group of academics from Heriot-Watt University, stated that large-scale physical regeneration projects involving new shopping arcades are often accompanied by the loss of local retail, as small independent shops are replaced en masse with large chain stores. In contrast, the academics from Heriot-Watt University found that, in the best initiatives, large retailers and local shopkeepers work together to provide a high-quality shopping environment.

New Economics Foundation:

Regeneration must be reoriented to support local retail not just for the sake of independent shopkeepers, but because of the central role of small shops within local economies as a whole. Businesses that expand the local economy do so partly through their ‘multiplier’ effect; i.e. the impact they have on other businesses through trading and wages. Research by nef has shown that money spent in local stores selling local produce tends to generate a higher local multiplier than the equivalent amount spent at a chain retailer. This is because large chain stores tend to procure fewer of their goods locally, and achieve most of their efficiency gains by cutting out other businesses. What’s more, the employment generated by these stores is often offset by the net loss of local jobs associated with the loss of nearby shops, wholesalers, abattoirs etc.

Nor is this phenomenon unique to Britain. Research from Maine in the north east United States has shown that when local residents spend $100 at a large national chain retailer, their purchase generates just $14 in local spending by that retailer. Yet that same $100 spent at a locally owned business generates $45 in local spending, three times as much as the chain store. Dollars spent at a local retailer supports not only that store, but a variety of other local businesses, including local banks, accountants, printers, and even internet service providers. Thus, regeneration initiatives that replace small independent retailers with large chain stores are likely to have a negative net impact on the very communities they’re designed to assist.

The KPI proposals are bad for the town and should be REJECTED.

Planning documents and committee reports

This document



I trust the committee will have read all the references as part of their deliberations, if not, the decision should be deferred to enable an informed decision to be taken.

Alliance calls for new supermarket code and watchdog, FoE, 22 January 2004

Battle in store? A discussion of the social impacts of the major supermarkets, Sustain, 2000

Joanna Blythman, Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets, Fourth Estate, 2004

Boots cuts back health services, BBC News on-line, 14 September 2004

Molly Conisbee et al, Clone Town Britain: The loss of local identity on the nation’s high streets, New Economics Foundation, September 2004

Nigel Dowdney, superstore kills town centre, letters, The Mail on Sunday, 3 October 2004

Eating Oil: Food Supply in a Changing Climate, Sustain, 2001

The Ecologist, September 2004 {special report on damaging impact of supermarkets}

The Economic Impact of Locally Owned Businesses vs. Chains: a case study in midcoast Maine, Institute for Local Self Reliance, September 2003

Jenny Edwards, Taming Tesco, Ethical Consumer, September/October 2004

Ghost Town: A Lethal Prescription, New Economics Foundation, August 2003

Jonathan Glancey, Dead-end Streets, The Guardian, 28 March 2002

Corinna Hawkes and Jacqui Webster, How supermarkets destroy jobs, Corporate Watch journal, Spring 2000

The Impact of Large Foodstores on Market Towns and City Centres, DETR, October 1998

Tim Lang and Hugh Raven, From Market to Hypermarket: Food Retailing in Britain, The Ecologist, July/August 1994

Felicity Lawrence, Not on the Label, Penguin, 2004

Lucy Michaels (Ed), What's Wrong With Supermarkets (4th ed), Corporate Watch, April 2004

George Monbiot, Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain, Macmillan, 2000

George Monbiot, High street chains of woe: The superstores have all but destroyed the food economy, The Guardian, 12 October 2000

George Monbiot, Buying up Britain, The Ecologist, November 2000

George Monbiot, Brecon Reckoning, The Ecologist, December 2000/January 2001

George Monbiot, Sins of the Superstores Visited on Us, The Guardian, 1 March 2001

Lucy Nichol, How can planning help the local food economy? A guide for planners, School of Planning, Oxford Brookes University, 2001

David Nicholson-Lord, Green Cities – and why we need them, New Economics Foundation, 2003

Keith Parkins, Trashing of Farnborough Town Centre, November 2002

Keith Parkins, Redevelopment of Farnborough town centre, July 2004

Andrew Simms et al, Ghost Town Britain, New Economics Foundation, 2002

Andrew Simms et al, Ghost Town Britain II: Death on the high street, New Economics Foundation, 2003

WH Smith plunges to record loss, BBC News on-line, 14 October 2004

WH Smith targets stores overhaul, BBC News on-line, 27 July 2004

Bob Stanley, Red card for a kickabout in the park, The Guardian, 12 October 2004

Super markets or corporate bullies, FoE, February 2004

Supermarkets: A report on the supply of groceries from multiple stores in the United Kingdom, Competition Commission, 2000

Tesco: Exposed, FoE, June 2003

Tesco deal loss hits Dairy Crest, BBC News on-line, 27 August 2004

Tesco price cuts to target Boots, BBC News on-line, 4 January 2004

What's wrong with Supermarkets, Corporate Watch, April 2002

Woolworths aims at Christmas lift, BBC News on-line, 8 September 2004

This report is to be placed in full before the planning committee. Failure to do so will be treated as a serious breach of the Human Rights Act.
Surrey-Hants ~ Farnborough
(c) Keith Parkins 2004 -- October 2004 rev 5