On 26 April Birmingham City Planning Committee voted by seven to five to approve an application to build a Morrison’s on the Shaftmoor Lane/Spring Road old Lucas/Denso site about a mile from Acocks Green centre, and, also, voted to approve an Asda and smaller shops on Reddings Lane, Tyesley a little further away. There are two Birmingham Mail reports here from before and after the Planning Committee Meeting. Some councillors, like Cllr Barry Henley (Lab) expressed concern about loss of jobs, pointing out that more jobs would be lost than gained, and some councillors tried to gain a cast iron agreement that the promised ExtraCare Retirement ‘village’ also to be built on the site, after the supermarket, will, actually, be built. All to no avail.
What does this mean for Acocks Green? Out of town supermarkets like this frequently cause blight in town centres as shoppers flock to the new supermarket. The existing centre loses not only some of its existing trade with smaller, supermarkets, but, even more importantly, the ‘footfall’ to other shops; shoppers in urban centres typically visit other shops in the locale, when they visit a local high street supermarket. Some correspondents to this site have been keen to assure us that they would, also, continue to use Acocks Green centre for other shopping, when new supermarkets are built. However, research shows that, despite promises that are made in such instances, the fact of the matter is that shoppers using the new supermarkets do not return very often to their old haunts. Therefore, even allowing for the fact that some our correspondents may be unusual people who will keep their word, their behaviour will not be typical. Check out our page onLlandrindod Wells.
The rationale for approving both of these developments was, ultimately, a strange one: it did not matter that a new Tesco’s had recently opened nearby, or that three shops had recently closed in Acocks Green. The catchment area for the new developments would be approximately 500,000, i.e. half the size of Birmingham. This assumption is based on a lot other very tenuous seeming calculations in the odd seeming HollisVincent Audit report, upon which the decision by the Planning Committee was largely made. HollisVincent is a small, year old, company based in Manchester. By 2016 it is assumed, in this report, that, because of increased demand (Advertising is going to be so good it will increase demand and, hey, we going to get richer, in the next four years, folks!) 17,000 additional square meters of supermarket will be needed in a block of areas including Solihull, Saltley, Stechford, Birmingham City City South, Sparkhill, Acocks Green, Kings Heath and Kings Heath; people from all these districts, it seems, will happily drive to Morrison’s on Shaftmoor Lane, or Asda on Reddings Lane. How often you pop into your local supermarket, and say to yourself: ‘ This is a bit crowded. I think I will pick my way through the Birmingham traffic to drive to another supermarket five to ten miles away.’
There is more: it is admitted that Acocks Green Sainsbury’s will probably lose one third of its trade, and Acocks Green centre as a whole, one fifth of its trade, estimates of ‘over trading’. HollisVincent then go on to concede that their over trading figures of Acocks Green Sainsbury’s might be a bit of an over estimate, but, um, they are sure that they must be pretty right, because Mr Vincent and Ms Hollis popped in, and had a look and Acocks Green Sainsbury’s was crowded … so it must be over-trading. So they dropped in several times to get an overall picture and included days, dates and times for these visits, – and date stamped photographs? Well, um, actually, no. They didn’t. In other words HollisVincent’ claim (a key point in their argument) that Acocks Green Sainsburys is ‘over trading’ and – so they are keen to tell us – at a level which is causing ‘customer discomfort’. However, is their opinion any more valuable than the opinion of any Acocks Green person? Or, you might possibly feel it is less valuable? If you live in or near Acocks Green we are guessing you have been in Sainsbury’s more than once, and might feel that Birmingham City Council might have got better value money had they paid you for your opinion, based on more than one visit?
What other pearls of wisdom from HollisVincent? Well, the Fox Hollies shops are nearer to the planned Morrisons … so that’s OK because they will benefit from being close to Morrison’s … won’t they? Funny that Bal’s supermarket, which collected over 300 signatures because they were worried about loss of trade to a big glossy rival did not see it quite that way. HollisVincent offer no estimates of how much Fox Hollies shops like Bal’s will be affected, only a bland assurance that proximity will be to their advantage.
Also, Acocks Green Sainsbury’s, it seems, supported the plans by a letter. So that is all right then? Well … who owns Acocks Green’s Sainsbury’s building? Morrison’s do. Sainsbury’s have bought The Trader public house next to their land and have indicated that they might demolish for extra car parking. (Not, note, to extend the shop.) This was mentioned in the report too. Will Sainsbury’s really want to extend for extra car parking if they are anticipating loosing around one third of their trade?
Also, if Sainsbury’s are so keen to demolish the building why does it currently have signs on the side saying it is to be re-let … as a pub?
If you would like to pursue this further …
Here is the full (64 pages) HollisVincent Report on the viability of building a Morrison’s and/or an Asda Supermarket in the B27, B28 & B11 Areas of Birmingham Note: you will need to read and/or download this from Scribed. This link will take you there.
For lighter reading there is a bullet point digest of our responses here. All comments are related to points in the HollisVincent report. Note, for detailed comparison of these two documents, downloading of the HollisVincent report is recommended because page numbers given here refer to the page numbers in the HollisVincent report, which will differ slightly from the page numbers at the side of the Scribed document; check numbers on pages of the report itself.
Note ‘Overall Catchment area’: How do we know what they mean by all the numbers given for different areas of Birmingham? (p. 30). The key is in another report, from which we have extracted the vital page, here
So … OK. The Planning Committee voted in favour. That is usually the end of the line. What else, can protesters do? This time, because this decision was taken after newNational Planning Policy Framework came into effect at the end of March, we are taking a leaf out of the book of other recent supermarket protest groups, e.g. in Newport York andMalton and we are writing to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ask him to examine the basis upon which this decision was made, watch this space.
Meantime, in case, in the light of our final comments you are wondering, how far has the building for Morrison’s actually yet got? Well, judging from these recent pictures of the old Lucas Denso/Shaftmoor Lane site (27 May 2012) not very far.