Market stalling?

Revised site layout, submitted 24th September 2010. Taken from Walsall Council's 'Planning Interactive' site. To see the original document, click on the image.

I noted with interest today that a whole slew of new documentation had appeared online under the planning application for the new Tesco store, slated to be developed in Brownhills in the next couple of years. Regulars and locals alike will be aware that the scheme has caused some controversy. Originally planned as a huge store-on-stils fronting the High Street with restaurants, atria, new shop units and houses, the design was mysteriously scaled back to the current form when finally submitted earlier this year. These plans, however, did not go down well with local pensioners, whose custom-built Senior Citizen’s Club would have been gratuitously demolished to make way for a small overspill car park.

A '3d Sketch' of the all new, pocket-sized, traderless market. Is it me or do those figures make this look really rather scary?

Following a noble and well-supported campaign, the doughty OAP’s forced a shoulder-shrugging climbdown by Tesco, and a less graceful hissy fit from Walsall Council regeneration chief, Councillor Adrian Andrew. Following publicity to indicate they were redrawing plans, the retail giant has submitted the above revised site layout, which does, indeed, leave the well-loved pensioner’s club untouched, instead moving the overspill car park to cover approximately half the area previously set out for the rejuvenated market, or ‘public space’, as the original plans termed it. The old market place, which would make ideal parking – still lies untouched and undeveloped in the plan, and will presumably lie derelict upon completion. They’ve saved the club by grabbing land from that originally set aside for the public.

It is sadly indicative of the approach both Walsall Council and Tesco have taken to Brownhills that we either keep the club and shrink our marketplace, or we lose the club and retain the postage stamp originally set out for the purpose. The land in question is currently a patch of wasteland between Kwik-Fit and Pier Street; the Market – should it even survive – will be given just the front half of that ground, which the designers say will hold 40 stalls. No provision has been made for trader parking, and one wonders how that would work – would stallholders be allowed to park on Tesco’s car park? At what cost?

It’s clear from the plans that Walsall Council have not managed to extract any extra leeway from their retail partner, who still seem to be getting an excellent deal. There are a couple of other changes in this drawing of note – the three retail units scheduled to be constructed to fill the gap across the front of the former Raven’s Court are now reduced to two – one small, one larger. The reversing bay to allow access to the shops fronting High Street has been moved to the end of the access road and now impinges on the public ‘Gateway’ access beside Swan Carpets. Somewhat mysteriously, the main entrance to the store, originally at the High Street end of the shopfront, moved to the Silver Street end on the second draft, has been moved back again.

The link from High Street. Nice to see that in this future, they've finally cleaned the graffiti off Swan Carpet's wall.

There are some interesting documents now available alongside the revised plans; one deals with a formal objection by Aldi to the development, which gives a revealing insight as to how Tesco sees its position in Brownhills, and a couple of ‘3D sketches’ which mock up (in a rather jarring fashion, it has to be said – they remind me of stills from the apocalyptic film ‘The Day After’the market and access way.

A full overview of the application and it’s supporting documentation can be found on Walsall Council’s ‘Planning Interactive’ site, reference 10/375/FL.

This has been a good and welcome victory for the Senior Citizens – of that there can be no doubt – but it’s also been a positive outcome for Tesco, as they’ve changed the development without substantially ceding any ground. The only people to lose out are the wider community, who seem to be punished for expecting a large business concern not to destroy longstanding elements of their social infrastructure. Sadly, we have brokering this development a council that seems to be prepared to acquiesce to anything their retail masters demand, and are wholly unprepared to force the hand of the retailer. The community is consequently expected to gratefully play host to a development that will surely be fatal to it’s independent traders.

The Tesco store will happen, and I doubt very much that the market will survive, even if it were to commence again. It was never in the plan, and this one just makes it all the more impractical. If you should hear the sound of running water, that’ll probably be the sound of Brownhills being sold down the river. Again.

Would you buy a social projection from these people?

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6 Responses to Market stalling?

  1. Keith Smith says:

    i feel that tesco’s are taking a bit too much of brownhills and i think for a business that stands to make a lot of money from the people of brownhills it could help out alot more with the redevelopment of the town.
    I do though have a counter argument against poeple who say it will take trade from the smaller shops, i live in brownhills at the moment and i go to other towns like tamworth to do my current ”big” shop, after i go around other shops in the area. Should a nice new tesco store be built in the hills i’d probably be more inclined to do my shopping there with any other custom i have going into the town. I know of a few people who feel the same and it may even bring people into the town. I really do hope it does.

    • Hi keith, thanks for your comments.

      The fact is, Tesco will take trade from the remaining shops. That a large superstore effectively killed Brownhills already is evidenced all around us. Go to any such town – Cradley, Darlaston – and you’ll see that where hypermarkets exist cheek-by-jowl with smaller shops, the smaller ones always lose.
      The engineering and design of road systems to accommodate these behemoths tends to create situations – classically demonstrated in this case – where punters drive up, park in front of the store, shop, then drive off. That’s convenience. Some will stray into town, but most will not. The connection between the store site and the High Street will be lessened, and I’d tenure that many visiting will not be aware of the rest of the town at all.

      With a cafe, clothes, electricals, there’ll be no reason to go elsewhere. That’s what they want.

      The re-engineering of the traffic system will cause further separation from the main thoroughfare. All in all, we’re up shit creek, frankly.

      Best wishes


  2. Neil says:

    The new Tesco store in Walsall is taking shape- and what an ugly drab building it is, devoid of any architectural innovation. Viewed from the Quasar Centre/ Park Place it is particularly ugly; the open aspect of the former college, with the lawn and mature trees, has been replaced by a hideous wall of fabricated panlels, turning St Paul’s Street into a drab ugly streetscene. The new road system,designed to benefit Tesco, is a disaster yet Walsall Council seem proud of the new store. Even quaint old Lichfield ended up with a monstrous store on stilts with seemingly the slowest moving travellator in the country! At least some effort has been made concerning the cladding to the carbuncle; they’ve used a brick effect. It’s a shame it clashes so badly with its surroundings!

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