Monday, 12 September 2011
'Let's keep Llandeilo as a hot-spot destination'
Llandeilo businessman, brewer and pub owner Simon Buckley has written the following article for the Carmarthen Journal about the current debate about the planned Sainsbury’s superstore for Llandeilo -
Llandeilo is an unspoilt town in a fantastic setting in rural west Wales.
It is a town that has developed its historic roots to become one of the most sought-after places to live in. It has become a hot-spot tourist destination.
Llandeilo has been praised in The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday, The Independent and many more internationally-recognised Journals.
So why, on the back of that success, do we not want the culminating glory of a Sainsbury’s superstore?
Llandeilo is a market town where we are blessed with a significant number of owner-operator shops - shops that are sensitive to local needs and source their produce in the local marketplace. For example, our butchers source their meat from local farms.
The wider community travels to Llandeilo as an administrative centre to use the Post Offices, the existing supermarkets and to browse the various other shops that make up the vibrant trading community.
As a town, we have two major problems –
One is traffic congestion and its associated problem of car parking.
The second is we need to create local jobs and to give many of our young a sense of purpose and a meaningful career in the community where they live, and where they can take a stake in their future.
The proposed Sainsbury’s development does not satisfy any of those objectives.
It is, by Llandeilo standards, a massive development - 49,000 sq ft of shed space, 25,000 sq ft of trading space, and space for more than 230 cars.
Carmarthenshire County Council, in 2009, commissioned a retail impact study which identified that by 2016 the whole of North East Carmarthenshire needed no more than an additional 6,000 sq ft of retailing space.
This development is four times the total area required by 2016 throughout East Carmarthenshire.
For those who live in this town, traffic congestion in Llandeilo is a significant problem.
Deliveries to existing businesses are frustrated by single lane narrow streets.
If the proposed development is allowed to proceed we will see significant increase in traffic in Rhosmaen Street and a further increase in levels of pollution.
An additional 1,000 cars on a Saturday alone will create gridlock like we have never seen it before in Llandeilo.
The argument for jobs is one that should not be ignored.
However, while Sainsbury’s bosses are quick to trumpet the number of jobs they will create (of which, 70% will be part time), they do not dwell on how many jobs will be lost in the closure of other stores, shops and amenities within the Llandeilo, Llangadog, and Llandovery area.
The shops that will close are, of course, the ones that buy local and support local producers.
Of the 10,000 lines stocked in Sainsbury’s, no more than 100 will be Welsh, and in Llandeilo’s case no more than three will be sourced from Carmarthenshire.
Finally, to the argument of cheaper fuel.
Last week I put £40 of diesel into my car in a leading store in Cardiff. That bought me 29.7 litres.
The price? £1.37.5.
The price in Llandeilo? £1.40.5.
The difference in price is no more than a small loaf of bread.
What is all the fuss about?
If the council grants planning permission, it will be breaking its own planning guidelines, and will be subject to a Judicial Review.
It will be leaving itself wide open to being prosecuted under EEC regulations on air pollution.
But, worse of all, it will deliver a death knell to more than 70 jobs in the town with the closure of smaller shops and the independent petrol station.
And it create traffic chaos like we have never seen before.
The site has been designated a site for manufacturing employment.
Let’s get Welsh Government and our council to create an industrial area on that site.
We could create a site of industrious endeavour which works with our schools in creating meaningful employment in this town for future generations.
Why sell our birthright for the sake of 2p off 500 grams of butter?