Friday, September 01, 2006

Tesco

Three days now into the Tesco debate. Bizarrely, reading the Northern Echo coverage, with some passionate contributions on both sides of the argument, I feel almost detached. Labour Councillors are not either "for" or "against" the scheme, but are waiting for the outcome of public consultation before forming a view on whether or not to support the redevelopment. In addition, I'm a member of the Planning Committee, and so have been advised by the Borough Solicitor not to make "definitive statements" one way or the other, whether here or in newsletters or comments to the press. In one way it's frustrating, but waiting for opinion to solidify around a view is much healthier for democracy in the town.

No one can accuse the Council of trying to lead the town by the nose regarding the Feethams proposal. Literature in the Town Crier and elsewhere stresses both the potential but also the risks involved if the plans get the go-ahead. There are a significant number of meetings where residents can air their views, not just in the town centre, but in the community too. In Haughton West, we have a session booked on 11 September between 3pm and 4.30pm at St. Bede's Primary School on the Kingsway, and between 11am and 4pm at Oban Court in Whinbush Way on 19 September. I'm also intending to be at the Darlington Assembly when this is discussed on 2 October from 9.30am, and the General Consultation meeting at Bondgate Methodist Church on Wednesday 11 October from 6.30pm. There's information about all of the consultation events at http://www.darlington.gov.uk/Democracy/Consultations/Town+Centre+Development/Consultation+Events/Consultation+Events.htm

A couple of final thoughts for tomight. Firstly, there's been so wild speculation elsewhere on the internet that the Council somehow lured Tesco to Darlington. I can clear that up - Tesco approached the Council about the scheme and not the other way around.

Finally, I thought the Darlington and Stockton Times leader today was thoughtful. I can't paste a hyperlink for the dear old D&S, so I'll quote it in full.


The Terror of Tesco The Tesco plan for the centre of Darlington is a bold one bound to inflame passions.

For many people, Tesco represents the ugly face of the highly successful British supermarket industry. Its continued growth and increase in share of the UK grocery market is thought by some to be reaching a point where it is, like its American equivalent, Wallmart, threatening to destroy HighStreets, and exerting a malign influence on its suppliers who of course include farmers.

Should Darlington fear Tesco? We think not, in the main, because Darlington as a town has a critical mass to sustain it. Where the Tesco effect may be deemed potentially harmful is in the much smaller communities. Even then, circumstances may not mean the end of retail civilisation. The examples of Northallerton, Yarm and Thirsk prove that there is life on the High Street after the arrival of Sir Terry Leahy's bargain-bearing stormtroopers.

Is the Town Hall the right place? Undoubtedly it is better than some out-of-centre Morton Palms-type location. Indeed Government policy on supermarket development, which aims to keep shoppers in town centres, would make such a location almost impossible.

But is the scheme as outlined the right one? We would suggest that the mix is pobably right. Apart from the Tesco store, which by modern standards isn't massive, there would be no other retail units. Given that the Commercial Street shopping scheme will be a reality by then, it doesn't seem likely that the town could sustain another large retail development. More town centre housing is to be welcomed.

There will be no tears shed over the demise of the appalling bus station and the existing Town Hall, a fine example of late sixties civic brutalism. Apart from aesthetic objections to the Town Hall's design, it isn't as they say these days "fit for purpose", being too small for a local authority with greater responsibilities than the body for which it was designed.

Our reservations rest on the design of the structures due to take their place. While it is tempting to to suggest that anything will be better than what exists, we hope that architects will come up with something bettwer than the rather characterless buildings featured in the artist's impressions.

2 comments:

townliar.com said...

Well Cllr Wallis nice to see you have found the time to run a blob site, the last time we spoke you were saying you were to busy to return to the townliar.

I hope yours "staggers" on as well as mine is.

Admin
www.townliar.com

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks, Ian.

Unfortunately, you have the advantage of time over me - posting repeatedly under multiple identities on the Liar site must take it out of you!