January Letter: Give us true facts about Sainsbury's

December 23 2013

IN RESPONSE to yet another letter in BV (December) on the Sainsbury’s Memorial Stadium story, we are writing to challenge some of the many misconceptions flying around on the topic.

IN RESPONSE to yet another letter in BV (December) on the Sainsbury’s Memorial Stadium story, we are writing to challenge some of the many misconceptions flying around on the topic. To clarify, we are local residents and shoppers who were present at the planning meeting which approved the development and we have followed the story closely.
G Roberts’s letter claims that, at the time of the planning application “the large majority who commented... were in favour ...” of Sainsbury’s. This is completely untrue: there were 1000 written objections and 100 written statements submitted for the planning meeting itself, an unprecedented number and a ratio of 10:1 against the development. In addition, there were 6,550 signatures on the anti-Sainsbury’s petition: 1000 more than for the supporting petition. To put this into perspective, there are some 12,000 inhabitants in the Bishopston ward – the most affected by the development.
We should point out that no recognition of this overwhelming majority was admitted at the meeting and local politicians, including the Mayor and Charlotte Leslie MP, as well as Nick Higgs and colleagues continue to promulgate the myth of “a tiny minority” opposing the application.
Your correspondent also maintains that “not all official assessments were negative about the impact of Sainsbury’s”. Assuming this refers to the assessment of retail impact, this is simply not true. The retail consultants for Sainsbury’s, as well as Bristol City Council’s independent consultants both forecast a negative impact on the Gloucester Road.
The council’s experts estimated that there would be a 19% loss of trade in convenience goods to Gloucester Road traders (£7.7million annually) and that the northern Co-op would close. From a close reading of their arguments, we are inclined to believe the judgement of these independent consultants.
Your correspondent goes on to say that “Sainsbury’s has given more consideration to carbon impacts than (Tesco Eastville and Golden Hill) ..”. That is likely to be due to the tightening of regulations in this area since the building of the Tesco stores. But it in no way addresses the problem of massively increased traffic in the Gloucester Road/ Filton Avenue area and surrounding streets if the new Sainsbury’s were to be built.
The council’s traffic officers showed how certain key junctions in the area were already up to 143% of capacity. They did not discuss how this issue could satisfactorily be resolved, especially in the light of increasing congestion with the expansion of Southmead Hospital. Nor, indeed, has any consideration been given to the even greater threat looming over north Bristol traffic from the many thousands of houses South Gloucestershire Council plans to build on Bristol’s borders.
In May 2013 the Bristol Post reported that Bristol councillors were actually being urged to recommend refusal for 1,100 new homes to be built on land bordering Filton Airfield because of the impact of extra traffic on existing roads! A further 5,700 houses are also planned for the Filton Airfield and Cribbs Causeway/Patchway area as detailed recently at a public consultation. The prospects for congestion and the related impact on pollution levels are truly nightmarish. This was one reason why 33% of the planning committee voted against Sainsbury’s application.
As to the idea that “Hardly any shops on upper Gloucester Road compete with Sainsbury’s”, we refute that entirely. We suggest the ‘upper’ Gloucester Road could reasonably be defined as above Pigsty Hill. This would, then, include three butchers, a baker’s, a greengrocer, two newsagents, two convenience stores, 2 takeaway sandwich shops, a cake shop, a post office, an Italian grocer’s, an off-licence, several cafés, an ironmongers, a lighting and small electrical goods shop, a ‘white goods’ store, a children’s shoe-shop, a children’s clothes shop (opening January) a small gifts, cards and wrappings store, a craft shop selling cards, picture frames and craft materials, and the Co-op supermarket, extensively used by local shoppers.
All of these would be in direct competition with a massive Sainsbury’s. Moreover, when they started to close as a result of loss of trade, the many other businesses nearby would all suffer from the loss of ‘footfall’. Thus a domino effect would start to close down the high street as a viable shopping centre. This effect has repeatedly been shown across the country when a large supermarket moves into an area of this kind.
As for jobs, the evidence is clear: there is a direct ratio between a new supermarket’s size and loss of jobs in the local area. GVA (BCC’s retail consultants) estimated that there were likely to be up to 197 retail jobs lost on Gloucester Road. These are the skilled jobs required to run a business, whatever its size. This does not account for any supply side jobs that might go too. Supermarkets, on the other hand, are whittling down the number of assistants (largely unskilled) as they increasingly introduce self-service tills.
The construction of a supermarket and a stadium would, indeed, bring temporary jobs, but so would any development plans for the Memorial stadium. All the evidence from a carefully researched local NHS document, as well as from the council’s own economic development team, shows that the net impact on the local economy and local employment would, in fact, be negative.
GR finally refers to which ‘voices’ have been heard on this matter. From contacts with TRASH campaigners, it is clear that Filton is well represented in their campaign. Central Lockleaze shoppers are only 1.8 miles by road*from Sainsbury’s Abbey Wood: the Memorial Stadium is a mere 350 yards closer. Perhaps the point is that the areas most affected by a massive, new supermarket would be those bordering the Gloucester Road shops: St Andrews, Bishopston, Horfield, Ashley Down and Filton. There are residents from all these areas who oppose this development.
There are already plenty of supermarkets to choose from in this area: we do not support the construction of yet another one which is forecast to bring traffic chaos and pollution and which would smash the unique character of the Gloucester Road by shutting many of its businesses. We are just two out of thousands of local people who oppose the development and who wish to see the true facts of this case aired in public.

S & T (Local Shoppers)

*measured from the primary school