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Asda in Melksham - Welcome or not?

Update - 26th September. I have just taken a phone call from one of the gentlemen we met, wishing to clarify a few points. He'll be writing a separate email to me, which I'll add to this thread, but in the meantime I would like to confirm:

1. Asda have publicised their plans, as far as they go at this early stage, and have listened to those reponses. Where I was doubtful was what would then happen to those responses; I have just learned that they will form a part of the planning submission. My actual comment was that I wasn't sure how much consideration would be given to point raised, and not that they weren't being gathered. Sorry to have suspicions sometimes, but I have come across situations where the fact that a consultation has been held is regarded as being the end objective and that's a very different matter to having a meaningful discussion as to whether to change you rplans based on inputs.

2. The requirement to undertake traffic surveys at a time when there are no road works, the schools are in, etc, is laid down by the Department for Transport, and the detail has to be agreed by the county council. I know that I used to dread travelling to Cornwall in high summer because of the traffic jams .... and perhaps this is why - the traffic surveys were only done at times of year when there were lower flows! In other words, it may be the system that says "no general survey covering all different types of day - just surveys on days deemed to be average" rather than Asda

3. Asda tell me thay have had hundreds of written representations, with over 90% stating they are in favour of the new store. I do not know how many of those are letters penned on blank sheets of paper, and how many are survey responses.

As an appropriate development, a new store such as Asda on the north western fringe of Melksham, hard beside the main communications arteries and with good links to them and to the town centre, could do wonders for this growing area. But an inappropriate development that only serves to suck its users into that area could lead to a hotspot of activity and jam in the hundred yards around and feeding arteries, with the rest of the area around, and perhaps the town centre, being bled dry. I am assured by the gentleman representing Asda that the former is their intent, and I look forward to seeing further details of this in actions as well as words.




My original blog

I have been passed a press release from Asda, who are going to be putting in a planning application for a big new store beside the railway, and been asked for my comment. I wrote:

It's a press release from Asda .... so the press will expect it to draw a glossy picture from the Asda viewpoint and skate quietly past any other side the story has ;-).

And I expanded:

Personal view:

I'm disappointed by the Asda representatives that I have spoken with. A company moving to the town has a choice of looking at it as a narrow commercial decision, based on their own needs with little regard for the needs of the town as a whole, or of taking a wider view as to what will benefit the town - how they can work with the town to everyone's mutual benefit. And I fear that I have seen the first, selfish, side predominating in Asda's bid. The press release says:

"""Allison Darling, ASDA Property Communications Manager said: "ASDA will fulfil an identified need for more food and clothing shops in Melksham and I"m confident that the new store will present a positive opportunity for existing traders in Melksham by encouraging more people to shop locally. ASDA is committed to working closely with its local communities and the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. The consultation has allowed us to take account of local views and to fine tune our proposal to accommodate these as much as possible.?""""

but it appears to me that the company is only giving lip service to the town; they are confusing listening to local views (which they have done) with taking account of local views which they specifically stated they are not doing. "We are speaking with the county council and we will do what they tell us to do. That is how it works. And if they don't tell us about an issue then we won't take it into account""

On the access side, the Asda representatives told us that they have yet to do their research and traffic surveys - that they have been waiting for a specific set of circumstances (such as no roadworks nearby and a regular school week) to do that research. That tells me that they have no intention of doing a series of surveys to get an overall picture, but are looking instead only at road loading at a benign time - no holiday traffic, no diversions on to the road. And as they haven't done their surveys yet, their proposals on the traffic remain too woolly to be worth comment - they couldn't even tell me whether there would be just one of the two lanes of traffic currently available for through traffic left in place after their development (having taken a lane for store access) or whether they would provide an extra lane.

I note a level pedestrian crossing over the busy dual carriadgeway is proposed rather than a bridge. A separate light phase for pedestrians would restrict traffic further.

I note that no connection or link of any sort is considered with the nearby station. And that bus plans are either for just two bus laybays or roadside stops on the busy A350 / A365 combined section. They would accept buses coming in and turning, but provided no evidence of early negotiation with the bus companies.

The new store is sufficiently far from the town centre for it to NOT feed people naturally to other shops, in spite of Asda'a suggestion that it would. They confirm this fact themselves at times by talking about bus connections TO THE TOWN - my capitalisation.

With regards to trading, Asda spoke of the current stores in the town "Overtrading" and indeed it is their business plan to steal some of that trade in order to help reduce the business done by other local stores to a more average level. I didn't see any representatives from the town stores at the Asda meetings during the short period I was there, but I would be very surprised to find the store being given quite the golden welcome Allison describes in the press release, and no-one has commented to me personally in that direction.

One thing, though, that ASDA do have right - VERY right - is the bustling, expanding scenario in Melksham. And I hope that even at this 10th or 11th hour in their proposals they'll look at making a few changes in their stance so that they really DO work with the town and gain our support, rather than taking from the town and finding that - perhaps - their planning application meets all sorts of local objections.




Comment from Selwyn Rowley, one of the gentlement we spoke to, on behalf of Asda. Exceptionally I am cutting this into the regular article to give it more prominence ....


Hi Graham

I noted the comments in your blog and feel that it may be helpful to respond to a few of the points raised.

I agree with you about the potential for Melksham which is why ASDA would like a store there.

It is our intention to take full account of local views and we believe that it is in our interests to do so.

Having spoken to to literally thousands of people in Melksham and received hundreds of written representations a very positive view has emerged . Over 90 per cent of the people who have communicated with us want ASDA to come to Melksham.

While this support is very important to our case, we also need to meet the requirements of the District Council planners and satisfy the County Council on the transport aspects.

The guidance from the Department of Transport states that traffic data should reflect the normal traffic conditions on the network e.g. not school holidays. In addition prior to starting an assessment a Scope of Study has to be submitted and agreed with the relevant Highway Authority - in this case Wiltshire County Council.

With regard to trading, the key point is that the majority of the catchment population are currently not shopping in Melksham but are driving to do their shopping in the surrounding towns. If ASDA can help to redress this imbalance and encourage more people to shop locally that should create opportunities for other local traders and that is something we would encourage.

Selwyn

(written 2007-09-21, updated 2007-09-26)

Commentatorsays ...
selwyn rowley:I agree with you about the potential for Melksham which is why ASDA would like a store there.

It is our intention to take full account of local views and we believe that it is in our interests to do so.

Having spoken to to literally thousands of people in Melksham and received hundreds of written representations a very positive view has emerged . Over 90 per cent of the people who have communicated with us want ASDA to come to Melksham.

While this support is very important to our case, we also need to meet the requirements of the District Council planners and satisfy the County Council on the transport aspects.

The guidance from the Department of Transport states that traffic data should reflect the normal traffic conditions on the network e.g. not school holidays. In addition prior to starting an assessment a Scope of Study has to be submitted and agreed with the relevant Highway Authority - in this case Wiltshire County Council.

With regard to trading, the key point is that the majority of the catchment population are currently not shopping in Melksham but are driving to do their shopping in the surrounding towns. If ASDA can help to redress this imbalance and encourage more people to shop locally that should create opportunities for other local traders and that is something we would encourage.

(comment added 2007-09-26 17:22:14)
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Comment: "most definitely welcome we need asda to come to melksham ..."
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Comment by Anon (published 2010-05-18)
most definitely welcome we need asda to come to melksham waitrose is a lovely new store which i shop in regulary better class of shopping but asda would be most welcome





yes please asda [#3496]

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