I have blogged previously about the fight currently going in my home town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire over the siting of a supermarket, the “combatants” being Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. I am in the “support the best of a bad case” camp – in an ideal world the town doesn’t need a supermarket – but the Waitrose one makes most sense to me, and would in my view have least effect on the town – partly due to its location and partly due to the arguably better ethics of the operator.
So I am appalled to see in the press over the last few days that English Heritage have in effect just come out in support of the Sainsbury’s deal! Obviously they haven’t said it in so many words – but they have made the following statement about the siting of the Waitrose unit;
“The role of the site as a positive contributor to the setting of the town will be lost as the area will effectively become part of the town rather than part of its landscape, resulting in an undesirable extension of its historic and tightly knit development pattern beyond the river boundary. “In this respect the proposals will cause substantial harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area, the immediate settings of Avon Mills and St John’s Bridge, and in harming the strategic setting of the town as a whole, to that of the Abbey. “
Now I lived in Malmesbury from the age of 8 and can honestly say that the site has no view of the Abbey, yes it adds to the towns area, but within the relief road (or ring road if you prefer). Surely that is preferable to adding a huge development on the far edge of the town outside the road system? Also the site is behind Avon Mills, so has no view of the Abbey or higher town, or can be seen from the town itself.
I understand why English Heritage are saying this – but in my opinion they are wrong!
I strongly believe that Sainsbury’s would kill the town centre, I do not believe their ‘spin’ about complementing the town. They are in business to make money, not help in a philanthropical way to develop a town centre and cherish it!
Come on Malmesbury, wake up and realise what is about to happen! For the Nimby’s there perhaps the realisation that it will make the town less attractive and therefore affect house prices downwards might help you make a decision? What ever happens the town is going to change for ever, but let’s try to make it as minimal and least damaging as we can?