The thoughts of a lapsed environmentalist returning to the fold.
Thursday, 21 January 2010
New superstore at Ashton Gate: It's bigger and it's orange
Sainsbury's have now got round to revealing details of their proposed store for Ashton Gate. For comparison here is the previous application;
So what's different? Well......it's orange. And it is much bigger, in fact the new store is big enough to be two stores, for example;
Existing Sainsbury's = 5,126 sq metres
Existing Asda = 4,733 sq metres
Total Floorspace = 9,859 sq metres
New Sainsbury's = 9,300 sq metres
But maybe that's the cunning plan (Baldrick is a City fan after all), maybe they think that if they say it's not a new store just a relocation of an existing store that the planners won't notice how big it is, and will change their mind about their conclusion stated in the officer's report (pdf) for the withdrawn Tesco proposal that "no need has been identified for the proposed store, and the locality of the site is already very well served for convenience shopping with two large superstores located within a mile of the site and numerous other smaller stores". Shame it will be bright orange or will orange be rebranded as Sainsburys Red ready for next seasons new kit?
They will of course be building houses and workspaces on the old Sainsbury's site which will look like this:
Oops, my mistake. That's George Ferguson's proposal for Ashton Gate.
Building houses and workspaces apparently won't work at Ashton Gate, it will only work at the current Sainsbury's site 500 metres away because it obviously makes sense to knock down a stadium to build a new supermarket and then knock down the old supermarket to build houses - that is much more sensible and sustainable then just knocking down the stadium and building the houses whilst keeping the existing store. Here is the mixed used development of the type that won't work at Ashton Gate;
The real reason why mixed use won't work at Ashton Gate is that Bristol City FC need to sell Ashton Gate for £20m as a supermarket as enabling development to fund the new stadium (apparently BCFC didn't consider to ask Sainsbury's how much they'd be willing to pay to NOT have a rival supermarket there, and then for the club to invest that in developing Ashton Gate themselves as mixed use). The problem here is that the planners have already said "taking into account the relatively limited degree to which the stadium would be reliant on the funds generated by any granting of planning permission for this application (17.5 %), the tenuous link between the stadium proposals and the extensive harm that would result from the proposed supermarket, officers conclude that its value as “enabling development” would not outweigh the extensive harm that would be caused. Therefore officers recommend that this application should be refused" So the store will have to be approved on its own merits as a superstore.
Which brings us back to whether planners (and the members of the planning committee) will perform an abrupt U-turn and approve a superstore that, to quote the BBC will, at 9,300 square metres "be larger than Asda at Cribbs Causeway which, when it was built 10 years ago, was the biggest supermarket in Europe" even though they have already said in regard to the earlier Tesco application that "no need has been demonstrated for additional convenience or comparison retail floorspace, either in qualitative or quantative terms" and that Bedminster town centre "would experience reduced footfall, and, in time, investment plans leading to increased numbers of vacancies and more poorly maintained buildings. The quality, attractiveness physical condition and character of the centre would all suffer and its vitality and viability would be further undermined."
It may well be that the most important document in all this is the one referred to in the Officer's Report for the previous application;
"The Council has commissioned a report to assess the existing centres in South Bristol, and the potential for the creation of a new or improved centre or centres. This will be used to develop the retail strategy for South Bristol and inform the further development of draft Core Strategy policy BCS 1, but this will not be completed until late November 2009 after the application has been considered by Committee."
If that report concludes that additonal retail floorspace in the Bedminster/Southville/Ashton Gate area can be provided without affecting those areas where "the Council have identified a disparity of retail provision across the south of the city, with many disadvantaged communities further to the south being poorly served in terms of access to facilities" then planners may feel that they have reason to perform a u-turn. Let's hope however, that they don't make the mistake of "providing additional retail capacity in advance of an identified need" in such a way that "the proposals may fetter opportunities for the Council to intervene in the market and provide a new or improved retail centre or centres to address these issues of deprivation" in other parts of south Bristol.
It would be embarrassing for the council if, in their efforts to promote the regeneration of South Bristol, they succeeded in competely undermining their efforts to truly regenerate South Bristol.