Just in case anyone hasn’t heard, Tesco are trying to relocate their Ledbury store from its currently location in Orchard Lane to the site currently used by Ledbury Welding in the Lower Road trading estate.
My view is that this is a bad move and I thought I’d write this blog to help you understand my thoughts on this. For the record it appears that the plan is to create a store that is significantly larger than the one at Belmont in Hereford (which is a pretty big shop!).
Do we need a larger store in Ledbury? I don’t think so. I’ve seen quotes on the Ledbury Reporter site where someone said that the current store “doesn’t meet our basic food needs”! I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Tesco sells bread, milk, eggs, meat, fruit, vegetables and so on. What on earth is there missing from a list of basic food needs?! Incredible.
If you think we do need a larger store, I’d be interested in knowing why you think that. Is it just because the current store doesn’t stock some of the things you want? Is it because you want more choice? Take a moment to think about what things Tesco’s current store stocks that you never buy. Do you think it’s possible that Tesco could change its range of goods to be more appropriate to our local needs? I think it would.
From my point of view I would like to see Tesco stocking cheap kids’ clothes. Ledbury has been devoid of a store like that since Woolworths closed and it would be nice to have something to replace it with. Personally I think that much of the stuff in what used to be the cafe (inside the door on the left) is pointless. Some of the Tesco branded stuff is cheap and, if you’re desparate, will do the job but are you really going to buy an iPhone from Tesco? Most of the branded stuff in that section can be bought cheaper elsewhere anyway! I just think a lot of that stuff could be abandoned and replaced with more useful things. I’m not going to go in to every single detail here but the gist of it is that I believe Tesco could change their policy on stock to better address the current failures without having to build a massive new store.
Apart from that, there are obviously other major issues involved with their relocation.
Tesco claim many advantages; more parking, more jobs, bringing more people in to Ledbury to shop.
I’ve never seen the current car park full. Close to it on occasion, such as at Christmas, but I’ve never been in the car park and failed to find a place to park.
If we have a bigger store then you’ll need more parking anyway because the plan is to attract people who would otherwise use Tesco’s competitors stores in Ross-On-Wye, Malvern and the other stores in Hereford that are closer to the Ledbury side than the Belmont Tesco. Will this bring more people to shop in Ledbury? Of course, but only to the outskirts of Ledbury and there are many issues with this to do with traffic.
As we know Ledbury doesn’t have a proper bypass; it’s got half a bypass. There is easy access to the proposed site from the Ross, Hereford and Gloucester directions. From Malvern and Worcester access is very poor; you have Knapp Lane or the A449 which narrows to traffic in one direction at a time at the top cross. It already gets badly clogged up at the top cross; do we really want to make that worse? The “close Knapp Lane to through traffic” brigade would have a head-fit as that’s really the only alternative to the Worcester Road so anyone who knows the area would probably avoid the hold-ups at the traffic lights by going along Knapp Lane in to the Homend.
Not only that, but one supposed advantage of moving from the current site is to reduce traffic past the primary school. I personally expect that many of the vehicles coming out of Knapp Lane on their way to Lower Road will go down Orchard Lane so cancelling out the advantage.
Let’s get back to the top cross and, in general, access to Lower Road from the Worcester direction. If I was coming to Lower Road from the Worcester Road my first thought would be to turn right in to the High Street, then turn left in to Bye Street, down Bridge Street and in to Lower Road then right on to the industrial estate. How many of you, who know Ledbury, would come in from Worcester/Malvern/Eastnor and turn left at the top cross to get to Lower Road (past the high school) round the bypass? I suspect, err, none of you.
At this point we can see that we have a load of people coming in from the Ross/Hereford/Gloucester directions, round the bypass in to the Tesco car park, doing their shopping and going back home the way they came. How does that benefit Ledbury? Quite simply, it doesn’t. People from that direction are unlikely to choose to come in to Ledbury town centre any more than they do now. In fact placing Tesco in that location will probably make it less likely for them to choose to go in to the town centre than they would have before because they will be able to get some of the things in Tesco that they may have got from smaller independent traders in town. We also have increased traffic from the Worcester direction that is likely to clog up the heart of Ledbury and to cause problems in a residential street (Bye Street/Bridge Street/Lower Road) where the homeowners are already forced to park on the road.
In recent months I have read there are already issues in the Lower Road estate with non-trade traffic; the local businesses have been complaining about the amount of through traffic! How is Tesco aiming to improve that? Are they doing anything to prevent people coming in the Lower Rd end of the estate rather than off the ‘bypass’? I certainly didn’t see any evidence of that at their presentation.
Now we get on to the jobs issue where Tesco are claiming this scheme will create 75 jobs and safeguard the existing ones. Now I may be wrong but won’t staying where they are safeguard the existing ones or have they got plans they’re not telling us about? As for the new ones, well, this is a cunning ploy that the big supermarkets use to try to make their plans more appealing. In fact there is evidence to suggest that the expansion of these supermarkets across the country has resulted in fewer jobs overall (article on This Is Money). Not only that but the jobs that are created tend to be low paid, typically part time (15 hours/week or less) jobs that minimise Tesco’s responsibilities to their staff and to the government in terms of taxes, national insurance and overtime payments (article in The English Rag).
When you look at the bigger picture though we can see that you have an out of town Tesco attracting people to it instead of to the town centre. That’s going to badly affect town centre trade. Couple that with the increased traffic in the town centre which will also put people off going there and you increase the negative impact on local shops so how many jobs in town are likely to be lost as a result? A loss of only 30 jobs in town already offsets the 75 part time jobs that Tesco are likely to create. Looking even wider though it’s well known that, for companies like Tesco, maintenance, repairs, reworking of layout etc is handled by contractors who are arranged at a corporate level. In contrast the small independent traders tend to hire local workers to do that sort of thing so we’re looking at possible indirect job losses from the support industries that are used by local stores.
In the end we could end up with a town centre that’s pretty much devoid of shops; just mostly boarded up and unused premises such as those we can already see on the Southend (the old bike and tattoo shops).
I can’t think of anyone who would choose to live in a ghost town like that, but I’m convinced that Ledbury is likely to head that way if Tesco’s scheme is approved.
One final thought; a number of people complain about having to go out of town to get some of their shopping. Is it really such a bad thing to leave the town you live in on occasion! I like to get out and see something different now and again!