A local correspondant has sent us the following information. I have removed the name of the supermarket and the city:
Having recently moved to Seaton from the southwest outskirts of a Midlands city, we have some potentially useful angles on supermarket tactics and flood plains.
A national supermarket has two completed 24-hour superstores and a third in the final planning-permission granted stage in the city, all within a three-mile radius, and two head-to-head with existing rival superstores. They believe they can put anyone else out of business.
One of these was a straightforward redevelopment of a vacant commercial site, but in a position where it has exacerbated traffic problems on a major road at a bridge which is the only river crossing for several miles. The only disruption to their plans was that the NRA blocked their plan for a petrol station where they originally planned it, because it was on a flood plain. They were able to resite it within the overall development, but it split their parking area.
As I understand from other developments, any building on flood land has to be compensated by digging out a corresponding area of new flood land. The developer appears to be naive and ignorant in claiming that he is offering new land, rather than increasing flood hazards.
I suspect that at this preliminary stage he is not getting technical advice from a supermarket's lawyers.
The development west of the city I know of, which has taken the longest to push through, has an unpalatable history. Directly or indirectly they acquired a number of commercial properties (which they let out on short lease) together with a whole block of perfectly viable residential properties which they boarded up and allowed to deteriorate. After much haggling over traffic arrangements and the relocation of a youth club at their expense, permission has been granted in spite of much local opposition. A smaller superstore chain has been refused planning permission in a nearby location on the ground that there were enough supermarkets in the area already. But the local MP tells us that the Borough Council does not have the £m required to employ the best legal brains to contest the application successfully through the entire appeals process.
The lesson appears to be that, if if a national supermarket is dead set on a development, we are unlikely beat them, but a national supermarket does not yet appear to be directly involved in Seaton.
Regrettably, we may not be able to exclude a superstore which will have an adverse effect on the town centre and smaller retailers, but the developer will have a great deal more difficulty in justifying the major new housing development at the expense of tourist accommodation.
I hope some of these points may be helpful. May I just point out that our little e-mailer does not receive attachments, but only straight text.
Mr and Mrs Barlow, Seaton