Saturday, 6 August 2011

Sainsbury's plan features in The Guardian

A SUPERMARKET plan for Dorridge features in today's Guardian newspaper.

Click the headline or link below to read the rest of this story.

A feature by John Harris looks at battles against supermarket developments by the "Big Four".

Harris is a renowned music journalist and regularly writes about Labour politics.

The section on Dorridge reads:

"A week later, I arrive in Dorridge, a Midlands village off the M40, with a population of just under 8,000. There are manicured lawns, polished cars and a very suburban kind of quiet. Thanks to a looming upgrade to the Chiltern main line, the trains that leave for Marylebone from the railway station will soon take only 90 minutes: property prices are inevitably very high. Dorridge is also where Justin King, the chief executive of Sainsbury's, grew up.

In among its well-heeled splendour, there is one problem: over the road from the obligatory Tesco Express is a modest-sized but pretty horrible-looking shopping centre called Forest Court, put up in the mid-1960s. It was bought by Sainsbury's in 2008 for £18m, and early last year it put in a planning application for a 25,000 sq ft supermarket. "It looked horrendous," one local tells me. "Just a normal Sainsbury's superstore: a massive orange box dropped in the middle of a residential area." Like campaigners in Frome and Sheringham, local people had big worries about impossible levels of traffic – and still do. But the company wants a big return on its investment: it continues to aim for a store that would reportedly have a turnover of £24m and serve a catchment area of 25,000 people – most of whom currently use one of at least seven supermarkets within a five-mile radius.

Thus was born Drovs, Dorridge Residents Opposed To A Village Superstore, a dozen of whose activists meet me in the big village pub to talk me through the story so far. One of their leaflets is based on drawings by an independent architect. "We have been working on an alternative plan that includes separate retail units," it says, "but with a smaller supermarket (big enough for a weekly shop) and an overall design that we think is more appropriate for the present village environment." The word they use is "modest" – though, as I point out, modern capitalism does not tend to approve of words like that.

In March 2010, Sainsbury's first proposal was rejected by Solihull metropolitan borough council's planning committee by nine votes to nil, against the advice of council officers. But having bought the shopping centre, Sainsbury's wasn't about to go away. In response, it staged events where residents were invited to spend a morning voicing their opinions, hosted by a company called Meeting Magic. According to Drovs, these were a "complete charade", where insult was added to injury by the claim that everything was about "conflict resolution".

"I said, 'What is the conflict?'" recalls Larry Sayer, a retired engineer, "and it was obvious: Dorridge residents against Sainsbury's." By way of allaying hostility, Sainsbury's also offered to fund the extension and refurbishment of the village doctors' surgery.

Its latest pitch is less brutalist, and 15% smaller, though the people I meet are still hostile, not least because of its rooftop car park. I can see their point: even under the latest proposal, the village would effectively become the soft scenery around the supermarket. "It'll become Sainsbury's on Chiltern," says Matthew Walker, a 36-year-old copywriter. "It won't be Dorridge any more."

And how has Sainsbury's been to deal with? "Patronising, I'd say," says Bryan Hunt, a construction project manager who is one of the group's planning experts. "They've gone through the motions. They'll listen where they think they can do some cosmetic massaging, but that's it. They'll get what they want."

Stokes Croft and Sheringham may have fallen. In Frome, we're in a phoney war, waiting for a planning application that could arrive tomorrow, or in five years' time. But in Dorridge, everything is a matter of high stakes and great urgency. Sainsbury's latest planning application will be heard in October; in the meantime, Drovs has to persuade councillors the plan is still far too big.

In the centre of the village, I meet someone who is a little less concerned. Tony Craig owns Dorridge Butchers, once based in the old shopping centre, now relocated with Sainsbury's help. "The village needs this," he says. Does he not fear losing business? He is, after all, a species endangered by the Big Four's seemingly unstoppable rise. "I'm an independent butcher," he assures me. "We hold our own. We've got that independent touch. And anyway, Sainsbury's will bring more footfall. I'll pick up a few of those people as well."

Not for the first time, I'm reminded of the Turkish proverb: "When the axe came into the woods, the trees all said, 'Well, at least the handle is one of us.'"

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  1. As the article points out, Sainsbury's want to make money back. I foresee a long drawn out battle and meanwhile we're stuck with 'Cell Block Forest Court'.

  2. Unsurprising opinion piece, hardly a balanced analysis - most unsurprising bit is the unnecessary insulting of Tony with that final comment, just the sort of insenstive thing DROVS would say.

    There is no centre to destroy, the premise of the article is flawed for Dorridge. Doesn't mean the development is right, but this article doesn't really inform the debate.

  3. I've just had more propaganda through from the DROVS and had to laugh. Point 7 mentions distinctiveness. They try to make it sound like some 'Chocolate Box' Cotswold village and the reality is the centre is actually quite grotty.
    For all the DROVS that haven't noticed what the centre looks like, take a look at these:

  4. And to address their other points:

    1. Size - If they reduce the size, then the good bits like a deli counter, meat counter, fresh fish counter etc will have to go and it will end up like the ready meal dispensary that is Tesco in Knowle.

    2. Parking - 200 staff are not all going to be working there at the same time. This is 88 extra spaces. How busy do they think this place will be?

    3. Traffic - People are not going to be driving past one supermarket to come to Dorridge. These people are already driving through the area to another supermarket.

    4. Monopoly - The independents in Knowle seem to manage quite well with a supermarket there. More waffle...

    5. Safety - There is already constant traffic on these roads. If this is an issue, it needs addressing whether Sainsbury's goes ahead or not.

    6. Disruption. HGV's, massive tractors and trains already run through Dorridge. If you haven't noticed this you might want to take a less blinkered look.

    7. See above post

    8. Design. Looks good to me. See photos above if you need to see what it's surrounded by.

    9. Property prices will not be adversely affected if they get rid of a 60's prison block style dump and replace it with top notch facilities. If anything they will rise. A village with a train station with links to London and Birmingham and it's got the full quota of services? That's ticked every box for a lot of buyers...

    Wake up DROVS, this is pure unadulterated NIMBYism....

  5. Thanks to Justin King for the above comments - dropping in on some old friends in Dorridge perhaps?

    Look, we're not going to agree Anonymous, so when you've finished shredding your DROVS leaflet, can you please find me example of a community this size with a store this big at its heart.

    I bet there isn't one!

    Someone whose back yard is nearly a mile away.

  6. "If we're not careful, we will sleepwalk into a future where the Big Four represent the only choice we have."

    Very nicely put by John Harris.

    Wake up Dorridge!


  7. @20:49

    On the basis that you have no argument, you resort to snidey comments. Well done you.

    @ Matthew

    Do you not understand that to have one of the decent supermarkets, they need to have it of a sufficient size to justify it. If that's rejected then it isn't financially viable for them and Sainsbury's will walk away. Fancy an Aldi or a Lidl do you? Watch the property prices tumble then. You have to remember they've already spent £18 million on the site. Independents can't afford that. You need to wake up to the reality.

  8. So, we are supposed to accept whatever sainsbury's want to drop on Dorridge because they have spent 18 million? I don't think so. It probably hasn't exactly broke the bank has it? I imagine it wont take long to wipe 18 million off property prices in Dorridge if this goes ahead. Be very interested for anyone from an estate agents to give their opinion.

  9. I think you'll find that furnishing Dorridge with the facilities it desperately requires in place of the Eastern Bloc concentration camp style shopping centre that is there at the moment will boost the desirability and hence the house prices. As I mentioned earlier. The train connections to Birmingham, Warwick, Leamington and London along with top notch facilities from a leading supermarket not to mention the draw of the Forest will make Dorridge one of the most desirable locations in the area. The only danger is that it will become too desirable and hence too expensive.

    Drive through the Cotswolds and see the villages that are smaller and far more picturesque than Dorridge with large supermarkets and then check the prices e.g. Stow on the Wold

  10. The idea that property prices will fall if Sainsbury's don't get planning permisson is frankly absurd. Dorridge has a low crime rate, good schools and excellent transport links. The fact it might not get a supermarket will have little impact on it's desirability. This is not Chelmsley Wood, this is not an area in desperate need of regeneration. As I've said before, those who talk of 'progress' need to explain why this is a good thing.

  11. Please let's also remember the plan does include space for independant retail outlets. The most responsible thing we can do is make sure we ALL shop at them - even if it means paying a bit more. Let's hope for an independent bakery and also buy all our produce from the local butcher etc. This is, I believe the best way to support local regeneration; put my money where my mouth is.

    Personally I'm concerned there is a lack of parking and traffic management in the plans but I'm sure this can be dealt with.

  12. Remember, Sainsbury's own the site so I wonder if it would let the six units to a business that could compete with the store, like a bakery. My guess is it would be high end fashion stores and beauty businesses. A second hand record shop is probably too much to hope for.

  13. @The Silhillian

    I thought as a reporter you were meant to be impartial? Your comments make me suspect you to be a DROV. Can you confirm whether you are in fact a member?

    What I said was building the supermarket and hence adding much needed facilities will certainly not have a negative impact on the area.

    Lastly, I think the DROVS should really think before they speak. First we had them calling people mentally deranged, then Matthew dismissed shop work and now we have the Silhillian making sneering comments about Chelmsley Wood.
    As someone who has friends and family in Chelmsley Wood, I'd like you to explain exactly what you mean in your comment above? I wonder what your employer will think of you making such comments?

    Everything I've heard from the DROVS has shown them to be sneering, snooty, condescending and generally quite an unpleasant bunch. There seems to be an air of self importance, a refusal to accept that they're wrong and it's rounded off with comments that shows such arrogance.

    Don't worry about replying, I for one won't be reading any more.

  14. The comment about Chelmsley Wood was not in any way meant to be disparaging, I should have used the phrase North Solihull, which, as we know, is undergoing a much needed and welcome regeneration with public money, as it says in my previous post.

    I have made a similar comment on here before - that there is clear division between how planning matters are perceived in different areas, where in some areas development is needed for jobs, services etc and other areas there is more of a need to preserve what already exists.

    This is the context I think that is getting missed in this debate - Dorridge is unique in many ways and the debate needs to be unique to Dorridge. With its transport links, high quality housing and good schools Dorridge needs to be considered on its own merits as it probably doesn't reflect most other parts of the UK and is probably better placed to ride out the recession than most areas.

    A very careful analysis then needs to be made about the impact Sainsbury's being built or not will have. Will it fundamentally change the nature of Dorridge? If so - and this is the key question - is that a good thing? If it is, then what other development do people want to see? There seems to be a division between what people want from Dorridge - for it to be a quiet suburb or a busier, retail experience. So I don't think it is the plan that is in itself controversial - it is different residents' outlook on where they live (this might be reflected by people moving to Dorridge from areas with more shops and services).

    So the key issue is what the change is needed for - I think the answer is for the simple reasons of the convenience of a local supermarket and bring Forest Court back into use, but I don't think it is needed to play a role in making Dorridge more desirable as a whole. It is pretty good as it is already and I think some overlook its uniqueness.

    I am not a member of DROVS - I have met them once, at the vigil demonstration, for which I attended as a reporter. I might have met others at the DDRA AGM without knowing they are DROVS members. I don't have a particular view on the plan - but I do have questions for those who do.

    You're right - reporters have to be impartial but that is not the same as not having opinions and the comments section is where those should go.

  15. @silhillian No, you are expected to be impartial, and express your views in an editorial. That is clearly labelled as such. We don't want your opinion, you provide a forum for us to talk in. If you want to join in, don't do it as the Silhillian, do it in a private capacity, or you undermine your credibility and impartiality (not that you appear to have much, judging by the tone of the reporting of this issue).

  16. @anonymous 15:24 - too right. The sneering, condescending tone, the misinformation (see the issue of the trucks in the latest propaganda effort), the snide and rude comments, all of them lead you to the conclusion that you can't actually have any sympathy with them.

    If they were honest, i.e. they said "we don't want a supermarket in our back garden because it will devalue our houses" then we could talk. But they won't admit that, and resort to fear and loathing.

  17. I don't see the difference in posting an editorial and using the comments thread - the comments thread is clearly peoples' opinions. Posting under another name could mislead people and make it look like I am trying to influence the debate without making clear I am the author of the stories. As I've said before, I'd encourage people to get a Google account so people know who is posting, rather than writing anonymously.

    I take great offence at the allegation that the coverage of Sainsbury's had not been impartial. Virtually everything that moves to do with Sainsbury's has been reported on here so there has been very little sifting in the first place. If there was a bias, then today's story about the DDRA's support for the plan would not have gone up, nor would reporting of the Sainsbury's survey showing majority support for the scheme.

    It's a shame you do not agree and will no longer be returning to the site.

  18. @silhillian All your interventions have been to ask readers who are in favour questions. You never question the rubbish flung about by the Drovs. Why is that?

    And abandon the site to you and the Drovs? Failing to hold you and the Drovs to account? I don't think so - but don't take my reading your stories as a vote in favour of your impartiality.

  19. I'll take your points on board, I think we've both had our say on this. But I do feel I have to point out as a final note that stories on the site have not and will not be used to promote or support either side in the Sainsbury's debate. I hope they will continue to help inform yours and readers' understanding of the issue.

  20. "@ Matthew Do you not understand that to have one of the decent supermarkets, they need to have it of a sufficient size to justify it?"

    If that's the case, how do you explain the proposed size of Waitrose in Knowle?

    And have you come back yet with an example of a supermarket this big on a single-carriageway in the centre of a largely residential area?

    There isn't one.


    Come on - Sainsbury's see this store as taking business off the massive Tesco near the motorway junction and they intend making it as big as they possibly can.

  21. To clear up the issue of the trucks...

    We were initially told at a face-to-face meeting with Sainsbury's that there would be 7 HGV deliveries daily, plus "at least five" other truck deliveries - e.g. for bread and milk. That gives our original figure of 24 truck trips a day.

    Sainsbury's later revised the HGVs figure to 4, so we printed a correction with a new figure of 18 truck trips a day: included with our colour leaflet in July.

    When we say "at least" we do mean at least - Sainsbury's may well run extra deliveries (there's nothing stopping them) and there may also be a fleet of 'Sainsbury's To You' internet shopping vans running in and out of the site.

    We printed the correction note because DROVS take great care to get our figures right on this matter. We want to be credible, constructive and consultative at all times - including in our dialogue with those who support the store.


  22. Please go to Guardian on line and read the full article. If that doesn't scare you off supermarkets for life nothing will.

    Poor Dorridge!

    Thanks to the Silhillian for bringing it to our attention.

  23. @ 7th August 13:04 "sneering, snooty, condescending and generally quite an unpleasant bunch"

    have you read your own comments?!

  24. There is one person on Face Book who likes The Silhillians post about the DDRA's support for the application and surprise surprise they live in Meriden!

  25. Imagine the sign at Heathrow

    Welcome to the " British Aisles" (shopping aisles that is!)
    your total shopping experience!!!

  26. Half a page mentioning claiming 24 trips a day. Tiny correction at the bottom of the insert.

    Nothing but lies and propaganda,

    Credible, constructive and consultative? You must be taking the mickey.

    Is this the same organisation that described anyone opposed to them as mentally ill? Whose supporter on these forums has multiple times referred to the rubbish jobs to be created? You pretend to be one thing, you act differently.

    Hypocrisy - The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behaviour does not conform; pretense.

    Ring any bells?

  27. The DROVS didn't need to print a correction, they have already said on here that Sainsburys number on the trucks changed after they printed their leaflet. Its good that they did, I think.

    I think you are getting a bit dramatic @20:17 - perhaps your Sainsbury's shares are underperforming at the moment?