I am a small town lad and proud of it – we live in a society today that unfortunately believes that ‘bigger is better’. However the ‘small town upbringing’ that I had is, I think, good for providing a better understanding of what really makes our country tick and perhaps make me a little more understanding about the differences between city and county.
My home town is Malmesbury in Wiltshire – described as a hill-top town, it is rather pretty as it is surrounded on three sides by rivers. It has a Norman Abbey (or what is left of it) at its heart and was also the capital of England once (no really!) and has a King buried in the Abbey (Athelstan). It was also the site of the first manned flight (by Elmer the monk).
So, a lot of history and not a huge amount of room for the town to grow, although it has over the last 30 years more than doubled in size. Unfortunately that now makes it of interest to the large supermarket operators and it is now subject to two planning applications – one from Sainsbury’s and one from Waitrose.
Now, I have commented on this blog numerous times before about my view on the negative effect that the supermarket has had on our town centres (and our way of life). Mostly by way they cause the loss of the traditional traders – butchers, bakers etc, and this is my concern in respect of Malmesbury. The town, which has a population of around 5000, still has two bakers, two good butchers and green grocers and delis and similar. It has a real community feel to the High Street and surrounding area, my dread is that the supermarkets will kill this dead.
As usual both supermarket operators are offering ‘the world’ to the town by pushing all the positives to get the planning they desire – link buses to the store etc. My personal hope is that neither application succeeds, but realistically one of the applications will undoubtably be passed, if so I hope it won’t be Sainsbury’s, as their site is too far out of the town. History tells me that they will perhaps also “change the ground rules” once they have the permission!
Waitrose have a site closer to the town centre (within walking distance) and will in my view be a kinder bed fellow for the local businesses if they are forced to have one. Time will tell, but I really hope my home town doesn’t become yet another victim of the supermarket tidal wave! Whatever happens there are interesting times ahead for Malmesbury.