Welcome to Tescotown

Whilst mooching back from work today, I noticed a planning application tied to a lamppost in Silver Street, Brownhills. Reading it, I note it’s for a new Tesco development in Brownhills town centre. I haven’t had time to go through it in detail yet – the application (reference 10/0375/FL) was submitted on the 31st March 2010, and is listed as being valid from 21st April 2010. The site notice I observed was dated the 27th April. This must all come as a bit of a surprise to Walsall Council, who are acting like no design or application has been finalised.

The proposal – which will indeed come as a shock to some, including the self-basting member for regeneration, Councillor Adrian Andrew – involves the complete demolition of Ravens Court (bit of a waste of new cladding there), the Senior Citizens centre and existing store, which will largely be replaced by car parking. Only three new shop units will apparently be built on the High Street, with a small area marked as ‘public realm’ which is noted could possibly hold a relocated market. This space is the fenced-off wasteland that currently languishes unloved next to Kwik-Fit. All this is a bit different to the development previously consulted on back in 2008, where there was lofty talk of a store on stilts, atria and housing. Note that the shabby southern arm of Ravens Court, housing Downes Newsagents and Greggs, would remain.

I’ll go into this in more detail over the weekend, when I’ve had chance to peruse the plans thoroughly, but this is the future for Brownhills. Walsall Council are broke, have no plan, and will welcome the Tesco dollar with open arms. As can be seen from recent articles emanating from the throbbing hive-mind of WMBC’s press office, Adrian Andrew clearly doesn’t have a clue about our town, as the mess that was the demise and doomed rebirth of the market show. Recently, he laughingly claimed the town to be ‘Vibrant’, which surely indicates that he doesn’t attempt to shop here regularly. Like it or not, this is what will be built, and expect the council to just roll over an accept what their retail masters demand.

I’m intrigued as to the municipal silence about this significant plan for Brownhills. Normally, Walsall would be shouting this kind of thing from the rooftops. It’s certainly a potentially problematic issue – the two Tory and One Labour councillors in the town may well come under pressure, particularly Labour member Barbara Cassidy who is vehement in her defence of the residents of the new ‘Luxury David Wilson housing development’. She campaigned vociferously against the proposed leisure development off Silver Street – whose site still remains empty – even though it was promised to the town in return for allowing the Watermead Estate to be built. Quite what the luxury residents will make of the prospect of several years of noisy, dirty reconstruction, resulting in being overshadowed by a huge new Tesco Extra, remains to be seen. I suspect prescriptions for blood pressure medication will increase significantly in the area, mainly to the political classes.

I expect that the council are holding back until after the election. It’s now quite clear – against my previous feelings – that the market was euthanised for Tesco (the YamYam was right about that), and the retail conglomerate clearly didn’t deliver as anticipated, leaving the council in a tight corner. It certainly makes the announcement from Adrian Andrew, via a press release last June, that ‘…there is categorically no link between Brownhills market and the Tesco development.’ look mendacious and not a little economical with the actualité. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes, but don’t expect anything quickly. This will take two years or more, and we’re in for interesting times.

Welcome to your future - soon Tesco will own all our arses. From planning documents submitted to Walsall Council.

The following links connect to documentation supplied with the Tesco application, available to the public from Walsall Council’s ‘Planning Interactive’ site. They’re all .PDF files, so you’ll need Adobe Reader.

Application Forms
Design And Access Statement
Existing And Proposed Site Sections
Location Plan
Planning And Retail Statement
Proposed Elevations
Proposed Roof Plan
Proposed Site Plan
Proposed Store Plan
Statement of Community Involvement
Transport Assessment
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15 Responses to Welcome to Tescotown

  1. Facade66 says:

    A couple of points spring to mind:
    Tesco must own a lot more land than we thought.
    How can a bigger store get away with less parking spaces?

    • gemma says:

      The proposal says there are currently 476 parking spaces and the new one will create 517.

      I’ll think you’ll also find that the owner of Ravenscourt will have been encouraged to sell to Tescos to remove the load of unused, vacant units. Probably did the cladding to improve the price from Tesco!

  2. The problem I have is not the removal of Ravens Court – although I’m not sure replacing it with a service road is quite the best thing to do – it’s the underhand way this is being done.

    Tesco consulted two years ago describing a very different development, including 15 retail units, traffic system improvements, fronting onto the High Street, understore parking etc. Many will imagine that that’s what they’re getting now.

    This proposal is very watered down from the retail utopia promised a couple of years ago, and will lead to a net loss in the town’s alternate retail space. This will do nothing to encourage people to go anywhere other than Tesco itself, does nothing to address traffic and has clearly been arrived at by leverage on an increasingly desperate council.

    Don’t worry though, they’ll probably pacify the elders with a bit more public art.

    Regards

    Bob

  3. stymaster says:

    I’ve just tried to wade through the transport assesment (it was hard going), and a couple of things stand out, unless I missed something:

    1. Junction of Silver St/ High St to be traffic light controlled, and Silver St may become 2-way. Is it just me, or will that upset traffic flow even more?

    2. While they did lots of modelling and data recording, they didn’t bother recording visits to the petrol station. Sorry, but that’s a bif thing to miss out. There are fewer petrol stations than ever in the area, and Tesco’s is probably the busiest…

    3. They’re expecting a 20% increase in visits from cyclists. Sorry, but the general population don’t share Bob’s enthusiasm for cycling- especially while grocery shopping- for most people, if they cycle at all, it’s for leisure, not transport. It’s what they do on a Sunday for a bit of excercise and relaxation. I’d maybe condsider it (as I could cycle there in about the same time as driving, at a guess), if I thought my bike might still be there when I left.

    Besides that, is it just me, or are Tesco just too damned big?

    • Hi Stymaster…

      Well spotted with the traffic lights. From the analysis they did last year, all options for pedestrianisation, etc. were chucked out in favour of the cheap solution of making Silver Street two-way for it’s entire length. Of course, at the time, the Council said it was their idea.

      With you on the petrol station.

      It’s easy to explain a 20% increase in cyclists. Cycling for utility is increasing markedly. However, the current Tesco shed in Brownhills has no cycle provision at all. If you go by bike, you have to leave it in the vestibule (if you can get away with it) or leave it at the mercy of the thieves. You can’t see your steed to keep an eye on it when you’re in there. Consequently, even hardened cyclists like myself don’t bother going by bike.

      Contrast that with, say, Morrisons in Burntwood, or Waitrose in Lichfield. In both, you’ve got decent racks, visibility from within store. Consequently, if you watch Waitrose’s cycle parking, it’s surprisingly heavily used. I shop there quite often, precisely because the parking is so good.

      Best wishes

      Bob

  4. stymaster says:

    I hadn’t clocked that a 20% increase on hardly anything is easier to achieve, but that makes sense. There’s no way i would leave my bike outside Tesco, and it’s almost certainly a lot cheaper than yours.

    I really might cycle there if the facilities were right: I do sometimes walk up there if I’m in the mood: even as a committed petrol (or diesel) head, driving around here is a chore, not a pleasure.

  5. Thanks as always BrownhillsBob for making this information so accessible.
    I’ve had a look through much of the documentation. I know this is simply a personal view of a relatively new resident of the town, but I see little to dispute here. The store itself looks well presented (unlike the ‘snowdome’ of the new Tesco Lichfield), and the additional pedestrian access should remove the game of ‘chicken’ I currently play when crossing the car park heading to/from Tesco via the canal.
    The traffic changes seem to make sense – I’ve never understood why Silver Street wasn’t two way anyhow (maybe there’s some historical reason). It appears the only loss of amenity is the over-sixties club.
    I can but imagine the chaos that there will be (actually I can, having lived next to the M6 Toll all the time that it was being built!), but the extra facilities (we can but hope for a Costa Coffee franchise!), and 150 extra jobs (though note, these aren’t FTEs) can only help the struggling town centre.

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