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Tesco plans unveiled PDF Print E-mail
Supermarket Debate
Written by Steve Glennie-Smith   
Thursday, 26 May 2011 16:22

The plans for the proposed new supermarket on a site currently occupied by Ledbury Welding (next door to Homebase - Google Maps location ) were on public display in the Market Theatre last Tuesday and Wednesday (24th & 25th May).  I had quite a long chat with their regional corporate affairs manager, who promised a press release by late afternoon today (26th), but in the absence of this, the following are my notes and observations.

See a more detailed image here.

 

Tesco denies that a 'hypermarket' (as has been rumoured) is planned.  Instead, the proposal is for a 29,000 sq. ft. store with 320 parking places on the site.  This is a bit more than twice the size of their Orchard Lane store, which would be sold.

It is claimed that Ledbury Welding wishes to relocate, and Tesco would assist financially.  Two possible sites have, apparently, been identified, but no further information was forthcoming.  Ledbury Welding employs 33 skilled workers.

I was told the greenfield (ie. covered with weeds) site opposite is not available.

The only major addition to the store's product line would be clothing.  With the demise of Woolworths, there is a distinct vacuum in Ledbury for children's clothing.  Also, there is no menswear shop in town.  Tesco emphatically stated that large electrical goods would not be sold there.

The other significant change is an increase in variety of food products.  Tesco denied having run down the choice of foods available at Orchard Lane when I challenged on this point - my own experience has been the withdrawal of several items over the years that remained available in their Cheltenham mega-store.  Many Ledbury people I've spoken to do want a greater choice - though I wonder if some of them ever visit the independent traders in town.  Perhaps they can't because their working hours clash with those traders' opening hours.

I did overhear one person ask if there would be a petrol station.  None was planned, but the point was enthusiastically taken onboard.

Opening hours would remain as at Orchard Lane, ie: 6am to midnight six days a week and 10am to 4pm on Sundays.  Tesco doesn't see the need for 24-hour opening in Ledbury.

Seventy-five new jobs would become available, and all 125 existing staff would be offered jobs at the store.  Tesco claims local labour would be used to build it, though the usual supermarket trend is to airlift in whole building crews, who also soak up all overnight accommodation (as I found, inconveniently, on two occasions while cycling from John o'Groats to Lands End in 1997).

One of the tick-boxes on the display stated there would be 'investment in new and improved pedestrian links to nearby residential areas'.  Ledbury Area Cycle Forum has, for many years, been campaigning for upgrading the rough path beside LDA Meats that links the industrial estate to Barnett Avenue.  The corridor is ample for shared use (cyclists and pedestrians), which would complement the existing route past the primary school to Orchard Lane, and thence to the Town Trail.  The regional manager I spoke to was keen to include cycling in this context, and was enthusiastic about the possibility of improving this path and adding a cycle link to the store along its frontage.  There are also plans to fund improvement of local bus services - no doubt to include the new site on their itineraries.

Although this is 'out of town' development, owing to the asymmetric expansion of Ledbury away from the hill, the new site is probably closer to, and certainly more accessible to more homes than the existing one (especially New Mills, courtesy the former Gloucester railway).  Improved cycle/pedestrian/bus links might stop a vast increase of traffic in Bridge Street - or am I being too optimistic? One thing is highly likely - those from surrounding villages arriving by car would be much less likely to venture into the town centre during the same shopping trip.

 

There is no firm plan for the Orchard Lane site.  Options offered by Tesco are:

  • Sell 'as is' to another retailer (interest has been expressed) - though I doubt to another supermarket, so don't expect a Lidl there!
  • Demolish the 15-year-old building and replace it and the car park with housing;
  • Just replace the building with housing and keep the car park as additional parking for the town.

 

A formal planning application is scheduled to be made to Herefordshire Council late summer; if successful, building would commence early 2012.  Since Homebase has set a precedent, a change of use (from industrial to retail) would be difficult for Herefordshire Council to refuse.  There would, undoubtedly, be significant 'planning gain' (ie. a S.106 agreement) from this if it proceeded.  Ledbury Area Cycle Forum will monitor this closely to ensure any such gain remains in Ledbury and is not sucked into Hereford to fund (for example) a bypass there.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 November 2011 13:55