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Todmorden Pride

Taking a practical approach to the regeneration of Todmorden

Supermarket development issues in Todmorden

By James Gregory

In the first of his open letters, the chair of Todmorden Pride, James Gregory, tackles the subject of supermarket development in Todmorden with David Moore, Head of Regeneration at Calderdale Council.


Dear David

Re: Supermarket development issues in Todmorden

This letter is to make you aware of the great concern expressed within Todmorden Pride in relation to expected and imminent proposals for supermarket development in Todmorden. It reflects the considered views of Todmorden Pride and I am confident it also expresses the views of the vast majority of Todmorden residents. In this letter, I will touch also on related issues and I very much hope that you will discuss the matters raised with colleagues; in particular Mr Gray and Mr Willerton. I am copying this letter to both of them and to Counsellors Byrne, Whittaker and Cooper. I will set out the matters to which I wish to draw attention in numbered paragraphs below.

1. Todmorden is at a critical stage in terms of development with a number of very large sites currently awaiting proposals. Decisions as to what is to be built will shape the future of the town as a whole in terms both of character and economic well being.

2. Before turning to the primary issue, namely the Halifax Road (formally Stannard) site I would observe that it is the general opinion that Todmorden is well served in terms of supermarkets with a very popular Morrisons and an increasingly successful Lidl. I believe that both stores attract significant custom from outside the Todmorden boundary.

3. You may expect that imminent proposals for the demolition of the Abraham Ormerod site and the former Olympia Cinema, now run down and shabby but formerly distinguished buildings of character, will be strongly opposed in Todmorden. We understand that Netto now owns both sites but it must be said that in terms of standing and general building quality that company is at the very bottom of the supermarket ladder. Their anticipated application to develop the combined sites into a Netto is in a Conservation Area and a most prominent site. Almost any design proposed by them will cause local dismay and the usual fears expressed in terms of Todmorden Market which is of course owned by Calderdale.

If planning rules indicate that a Netto application cannot successfully be opposed then the residents of Todmorden will rightly expect that any consents granted by Calderdale will require a building and surroundings of quite exceptional quality in terms of imagination, design, and material.

4. As everyone who has any dealings with Todmorden will know, it has been the number one priority and the most cherished ambition of the people of Todmorden in all surveys over many years that the Night and Day/Post Office building should be demolished. This building is a physical blight to the town centre and is very much in focus given the efforts currently being made by Calderdale (which are most appreciated) to invest in and give fresh life to our Town Hall.

5. Many of us take the view that any developer looking at the Bramsche Square site will conclude that an anchor tenant in the form of a small supermarket will be essential. My personal view is that there is little realistic chance of any developer building any significant speculative retail into a scheme. Given that previous proposals were rejected in part because of the unwanted housing element and the failure to display imagination in terms of Tipside it is an obvious hope that Night and Day could be translated in an improved form perhaps Tesco Express into a suitable location on this critical site. Whether that can ever occur must depend significantly on the extent of retail provision already built or permitted in Todmorden.


HALIFAX ROAD

1. I believe there is unanimity within Todmorden that a straightforward supermarket development on the former Stannard site is objectionable. I will set out the reasons for that opinion below.

2. If concerns that Netto will one way or another gain consent on the Abraham Ormerod/Olympia are correct this Halifax Road site would give Todmorden four major supermarkets. I imagine this could only be justified if the catchment area was said to include Hebden Bridge and beyond. Without descending into journalese, you will be aware that Hebden Bridge advertises itself" as "A town of little shops" and has a very attractive and well-enclosed central retail area. We make the point that if Halifax Road is to have a Tesco or Sainsbury or such we will be a town principally known for an excess of supermarkets. We accepted the waste disposal centre at Eastwood as a common facility for Todmorden and beyond but Todmorden must not be regarded as a supermarket destination for adjoining areas. Potentially a town with four major supermarkets and little other employment will provide an unattractive, backward looking and negative physical and economic environment which will prejudice the future of the town in my view.

3. Inevitably such a development will compound damage to the town centre retail offer and prospects and it must be said make it even more unlikely or impossible for Todmorden to hope that the Night and Day site can be removed. There is a common opinion that a Bramsche Square development which does not involve removal of Night and Day and which fails to address Tipside will be regarded as a failure.

4. Our concerns about the Halifax Road site are not a knee jerk reaction. Professionally qualified members of Todmorden Pride and others have been pressing for comprehensive redevelopment of this Stannard site together with adjacent development sites for several years. Proposals included a marina, quality housing and attractive commercial space to complement an Innovation Centre around Bramsche Square. You will be aware that there is a longstanding derelict site very close by bounded by the canal, Key Sike Lane and Derdale Street. The desirability of taking advantage of an overall site bounded by the main road and the canal is, we suggest, apparent. We commissioned a concept document which has been seen by your predecessors to give an indication of the prospects for the site as a whole and we remain deeply disappointed that this does not seem currently to be being progressed or addressed within C.M.B.C. Moreover, in relation to the Stannard site alone there is a development brief which itself calls for co-ordinated development of that site and the others. We urgently request that consideration be given to how in planning terms this whole site can be advanced in a way appropriate in 2010 for a suitably ambitious local authority.

5. Having spoken to the project manager of the Stannard site developer I understand that he is optimistic of consent following discussion with unnamed planning officers. That optimism is fuelled significantly apparently by a retail needs survey commissioned by Calderdale which identifies the site as suitable for supermarket development. May I request a copy of this document as a matter of urgency? May I also enquire from which source in Calderdale the authors of that report received the suggestion that this was a suitable site? It is not.

I think it appropriate in this letter to mention that we at Todmorden Pride appreciate the funding granted last year for general improvements in the town. With the assistance of Anne Holdsworth, we will very shortly be able to show to you proposals which can be rapidly implemented on council property at very moderate cost which will, we believe, give a real boost to the town in the area opposite Fielden Wharf and down to the Lever Street car park. We are pleased and grateful for this opportunity.

The matters raised in this letter are, you will appreciate, of major importance to the future of Todmorden. For my part, I do understand that not everything which a community desires can be achieved for planning and financial reasons. Nevertheless, we are anxious to co-operate and make our views known and to have a legitimate and appropriate influence upon the planning process. We would welcome a discussion with yourself and perhaps planning officers on an overall basis as soon as realistically possible. With many thanks for your support.

Yours sincerely

JAMES H GREGORY

(Chair Todmorden Pride)

This letter was sent to David Moore, Head of Regeneration at Calderdale Council, on the 1st March 2010.

June 19, 2010

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Established in January 1998 the Todmorden Pride Board, operating as a voluntary group, includes a diverse range of representatives drawn from all sectors of the community of Todmorden.

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