The battle being fought by residents at Hay on Wye (population 1,500 and Wales of course) against a supermarket raises the question about how small a town has to be before a supermarkets impact is unacceptable.
Of course in most places 1,500 would be a village, and there are plenty of villages of this size without any retail – people use supermarkets elsewhere.
But in very remote areas with lack of competition small shops, often selling local produce, thrive.
Part of the key justification for the sequential approach was research that ‘linked trips’ led to people visiting a supermarket then say popping into the nearby marks and sparks etc.
But for small market towns the proportion of convenience against durable is higher and it was argued they had a bet negative impact.
Ludlow was cause celebre for some years.
Eventually DETR, at the urging of John Gummer, comissioned the Report ‘The Impact of Large Foodstores on Market Towns and District Centres’ in 1998
This was pretty devastating
The decline in market share for the town centre convenience sector as a whole ranged from 21% in St Neots to 64% in Fakenham, and 75% in Warminster.
And is now brandished by protestors.
As a result PPG/PPS 6 was amended to include tests that the scale of a store should be appropriate to the function and size of a town centre – noticeably missing from the draft NPPF.
This report is now rather old though and has been challenged by many retailers.
A 2010 report ‘Revisiting the Impact of Large Foodstores on Market Towns and District Centres’ by Prof Neil Wrigly et al. of the University of Southampton – commissioned by Tesco it must be said – found an increase in trade clawback, a decrease in car usage and an increase in footfall on high streets, as well as limited impact on existing trade. Of course the findings and genesis of the study was hotly contested.
Of course there is no almost no market town of any size without a supermarket, so it might not be the highest priority for research, so the battleground has shifted to the tiny market towns of mid Wales where English Planning ministers have no remit.
The CE of Sainsburys will this week suggest that people dont like trudging around between butchers, bakers and Greengrocers, well for most of middle England maybe but for tourist orientated small market towns that is one reason major reason why people visit and move there.
As this is an issue about how to meet local need perhaps it is one of the few areas of planning where a local referendum should be used to determine the decision?