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Supermarket Debate
Written by John Eager   
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 12:51

All the lights were on, the heating was turned up full, St Katharine's was buzzing and ready for the great debate - that never happened. Last night's parish meeting, called because of a request by eleven parishioners for a town referendum regarding out of town retail development, was well attended with over a hundred townspeople, councilors and local media present, but no representatives from the campaign group LESS, whose members had called the meeting.

Like England versus Sweden on the telly, it turned out to be a mostly friendly match, or mismatch, with nothing much to be gained by either side, so therefore little was exercised. Debate was played out in what appeared to be a yawning goaless draw, before an unfortunate and embarrasing own goal by a defender of the supermarkets led to a narrow, albeit meaningless victory for LOTS.

With Mayor Conway refusing to come off the bench to officiate, the meeting was refereed by Deputy Mayor Tony Bradford.


Residents made statements and asked questions pertaining to the Tesco/Sainsbury's hypermarket proposals. Those in favour of the grocers complained that they could not get what they wanted in Ledbury, particularly regarding clothes, cheap fuel and the choice of groceries. They said they preferred to shop in Malvern, Ross-on-Wye and Hereford.


Parking was also mentioned by residents saying it was a problem in Ledbury that made shopping in the town centre difficult.

Residents also said that Ledbury needed the employment boost that a hypermarket would deliver.

These arguments were countered by other Ledbury residents: They said the main problem with the proposals were the size and location of the stores. They supported Tesco expanding its existing site, which would then offer more consumer choice and retain its parking.

One resident said they shouldn't expect cheap petrol, if there was no competition.

A Gloucester Road resident spoke about employment claims. He said the supermarkets were here to help themselves, not to help Ledbury. They would not necessarily employ local people.

A Newbury Park resident suggested that more jobs could be lost than gained in the local economy, because the supermarket's presence would close down local retailers, having knock on negative effects to their suppliers and the local service industries.

A New Street resident feared for the smaller supermarkets, the Spar and the Co Op.

A Church Street resident predicted that if Tesco needed 6,000 shoppers a day at a new supermarket, then it would cause 'gridlock' to the town. "Forget parking, you won't be able to get into Ledbury."

Another resident told those assembled that the supermarkets' proposed locations were too far from the town centre - too far to walk, too far to carry groceries.

Local people would continue to shop in Malvern and Hereford because shopping was a leisure activity, someone said.

A member of the Transition movement attempted to talk about the environmental issues regarding these proposals, but the ref prevented her from speaking stating that her point was irrelevant. How discussing the creation of local, sustainable jobs is irrelevant was not made clear. To this writer it is astonishing that the single most important issue of our times, i.e. climate change, is not considered relevant to economic planning. What hope is there?

Finally, local resident Yvonne White proposed the referendum that she had been expecting at this meeting (she did not know that LESS members had withdrawn their request for a parish poll.) She was seconded, but only four residents stood up and were counted. The proposal failed, there will be no parish poll, which will save the tax payer £2,000.

With,apparently, none of the leaders of the LESS campaign group present, debate at this meeting was half-hearted, and with no support for a referendum - the very point of this meeting - it was difficult to see why these one hundred plus residents had turned up and wasted their time on a chilly November evening.

Last Updated on Monday, 28 November 2011 10:57
Comments (9)
9 Thursday, 17 November 2011 16:49

Some people are going off topic here and bordering on behaviour which is not acceptable to this administator. The Ledbury Portal is here for debate, discussion, the odd wise crack and hopefully inspired thinking and thoughtfulness. It is important to have some respect for each other here as well as having some dignity for oneself too.

Who is the mysterious J Masefiled?
8 Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:50
Andrew Warmington
Hmmm....let me think about this...

Someone who is wholly pro-superstore, can't spell 'independent' (or 'Masefield' for that matter), uses the term 'no smoke without fire' and the pot-kettle analogy, while being either unable or unwilling to distinguish between a group and its individual members. A quick look at the LESS Facebook Group should give us some clues.
Mr ' Masefiled'
7 Thursday, 17 November 2011 09:50
I really still do not follow your reasoning - talking about Mrs Crowe etc.(perhaps I am not clever enough !) But what I was trying to refer to, as politely as possible, was a very abusive thread, about what was said at the meeting (now deleted) on a public LESS Facebook site, posted by a gentleman who I know was not present at the meeting. That is the end of the matter as far as I am concerned.
Mr ' Masefiled'
6 Wednesday, 16 November 2011 21:59
I agree that whoever was at the meeting 'taking notes etc.' has a right to comment and post their opinion on what was said, but I do not believe that you, Mr Dudley or anyone else who was not at the meeting has a right to post a comment because it would be hearsay.... and hearsay is unreliable and tends to have a life of its own as it is passed on as in 'chinese whispers'. Last night will not have been the last chance to have a say on the superstores issue, but the meeting was a Public Parish Meeting and it is doubtful if we will get another one on this issue. As it was a Parish Meeting we all had to give our addresses for identification if necessary a fact of which you would have been aware of, if you had been there.
Mr ' Masefiled'
5 Wednesday, 16 November 2011 21:25
Sorry I do not understand what you are accusing me of, but you do seem very defensive.
Thank you - an accurate report on the meeting
4 Wednesday, 16 November 2011 19:41
People will take away different impressions from a meeting such as the one that took place last night but I find John's account very similar to mine. However chilly the evening, I think it important to turn out for what could be the only public parish meeting called, to discuss out of town retail development around Ledbury. All those who attended the meeting have a right to comment on what was said, but those who did not attend but choose to post hearsay on Facebook and elsewhere resulting in the 'chinese whispers effect' have no right to do so.
stuff and nonsense
3 Wednesday, 16 November 2011 17:02
1. You seem to be confusing LESS with a group of individuals who decided to get together and request a meeting to discuss a referendum, at first LESS supported these people but on reflection decided that at this time a referendum was not appropriate .. you can assume (makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me') all you like but as you are not privy to the facts that is all it will ever be .. assumption.

2. Sainsbury's have quoted the number of jobs they expect to be available based on similar stores of similar size .. however it really depends on what hours those who apply wish to work .. if the majority want only 10 hours or so then there will be more jobs available, however, if the majority want 30 hours or more then there will be less jobs avaialble .. its really quite simple.
2 Wednesday, 16 November 2011 16:48
martin alastair cooke
1. I think the issue about LESS's involvement with the referendum highlights that it is not as homogenous group as we are lead to believe. Facebook can play all sorts of tricks with the mind.

2. Michael
I've read somewhere, and I'll try to find it, but off-hand I understand Sainsbury's are building a bigger store somewhere but with a far smaller number of jobs required. Makes me think that any jobs estimate is pure speculation at this stage by the company to endear itself to any future locale.
1 Wednesday, 16 November 2011 15:34
Michael Lever
On the matters of jobs, I am told that it would be discriminatory (against the law) for Sainsburys or Tesco for that matter to commit to saying jobs would be given to local people.