Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant

Grim as hell... and we’re stuck with it, all on the whim of Britain’s biggest retailer. Don’t it make you glad?

From the Walsall Express & Star, Thursday 26th April 2012. Click for a larger version.

The local press is proving a rich seam of content at the moment here on the Brownhills Blog, and I really wanted to resist raiding yet another reader’s letter from yet another op-ed page. However, this one is so unbelievably bittier, nasty and asinine that I can’t let it go unchallenged. It’s so ill-informed that I question whether the writer is actually from Mars rather than Brownhills.

First off, this intemperate missive is rendered utterly futile by pointing out that planning permission for the new Tesco development in Brownhills was granted in early 2011, with the planning obligation – the store agreeing to be bound by conditions of planning approval – being dated 3rd February 2011. Tesco therefore have planning permission, and have had for over a year. It has to be said that Walsall didn’t drag their heels in approval, and bent over backwards – some would say in a very obliging, unseemly manner  – to accommodate the retail behemoth.

The gratuitous attack on the pensioners, long time followers of the saga will recall, was due to their utterly justified protest at the council’s initial capitulation to Tesco in allowing the Senior Citizens Centre to be razed to accommodate the proposed car park. This is a very popular group meeting in a well-loved, custom built facility. They had every right to protest at the prospective loss, and quite correctly, after pressure from a number of quarters, they won their battle. The plans were modified and the centre retained long before final approval.

Since Mr. Goulding appears to consider a new Tesco store to be the height of urban development, I’m surprised he’s not aware o the machinations over the stores he mentions in West Bromwich, Walsall and Lichfield, the development process for the first two stretching out for at least 8 years apiece, the West Bromich one being over a decade, and for much of the time the site remaining derelict and undeveloped.

The delay to the Brownhills store development and our ultimate retail salvation is not the council, but the saintly entity of Tesco themselves, whom, upon hitting choppy retail waters, have decided to scale back their expansion plans, and quite clearly seem to think the dump they already have here is taking enough money.

The reason we won’t be getting a new Tesco is because Tesco themselves don’t want to build one, and that’s nothing to do with any of the limp attacks in the letter in question.

The prospect of Tesco pulling out of Brownhills – where they make a huge amount of money from a down-at-heel, unloved, shabby store, is ludicrous. Brownhills is clearly a busy unit that’s pulling in punters, hence the complacency about upgrading it.

Mr. Goulding also seems a tad confused about what ails Brownhills. In one paragraph he opines that we need a new store like the one in Hednesford, yet in another bemoans the loss of the town’s vibrant retail scene of the 1970’s. This is clearly doublethink, and as to the Chasewater situation – now in the hands of Staffordshire after Lichfield District council pulled the plug – literally. I’ll happily meet the correspondent there for a quick sail when in refills… 2016 suit you?

Tesco doesn’t give a stuff about our town, Walsall Council or the shopping experience of Mr Goulding and its other devoted punters. All it cares about is the bottom line and a decision was clearly made at the outset that Brownhills couldn’t sustain a store the size of Lichfield or Walsall, as shown by their initial scaling down. Since then there’s clearly been a rethink, and we’re apparently stuck with the scruffy, dirty and unwelcoming edifice they currently inhabit.

To those hacked off about this, I suggest voting with your feet. I’ve never welcomed the prospect of a new Tesco store, but it was the only offer on the table. Now, that’s gone. We put all our development trust in the hands of Tesco, not realising that when you lie down with dogs, you usually wake up with fleas.

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6 Responses to Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant

  1. stymaster says:

    I’m amazed, frankly, that anyone would see the building of a huge Tesco as a benefit to the town as a whole. As to where people would shop? Any of the large supermarkets in Burntwood, Lichfield, Walsall or Aldridge would do, as the great majority drive to them, like it or not.

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Tesco would only build a store to match what they think is the spending power in the catchment area; they are not in the white elephant business. That is why they have built a new store at Heath Hayes, where there has been a lot of new house building.

    If Tesco closed and everyone went to those other places, the overwhelming majority would not visit Brownhills at all.

    I don’t have any statistics about car-borne trade, but I suspect you underestimate the proportion of shoppers who don’t travel by car. According to the last Census available (2001) in the Aldridge-Brownhills constituency 21.5% of households had no car and in Walsall borough 31% (likely to be higher in Brownhills ward). In households with one car (43%) a high proportion are parked at a workplace for several hours, so any shopping trips by other family members during that time are by other means.

  3. stymaster says:

    You may be right: I’m probably distorting things by thinking of friends and family, who, if they don’t have a car, generally get others who do to shop for them 🙂

    I agree with your other comments: Effectively much of the retail trade in Brownhills has died, and yes, as Tesco’s function is to make money, they’re unlikely to spend big £££ on a new store that probably won’t make more than the existing one. You only have to compare the goods in there with other stores to see that the store is tailoring stock to the local demographics. No focaccia bread for sale in Bownhills….

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