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Waitrose Plan – Another Nail In the Coffin of Guildford’s Character?

Published on: 4 May, 2012
Updated on: 4 May, 2012

From  Ashley Harrison (Mrs)

In response to David Smith’s Letter ‘Waitrose Plan – There Are Other factors’

Whilst I appreciate that a growing population needs adequate food shopping facilities, I think there are a couple of significant holes in your argument:

1) There is a growing body of research and evidence to suggest that shoppers are benefiting from online shopping and home delivery of food – this reduces the amount of individual car journeys to and from supermarkets and is therefore in this respect a ‘greener’ way to shop.

2) If the critical mass of new homes being built are out of the town centre (e.g. Epsom Road and QE Barracks), would it not be more appropriate to increase out of town shopping facilities commensurately? I don’t see increasing traffic congestion to an already over-burdened town centre and one-way system as either positive or as the council being “proactive”, I’m afraid.

3) My contention with it being “all about the money” is that I feel we are watching the character of Guildford being systematically deconstructed, in the name of commercialism. Not very long ago, Guildford had a vibrant high street with several units taken up by independent retailers, and a high ratio of older buildings and housing stock. Now, retail rates are so high that we see many, many new businesses open and fail within a year, and numerous beautiful buildings torn down and replaced with apartments or offices, rather than conserved and re-purposed.

I noted in the Waitrose proposal that one of the data points used to justify the scheme is Experian data that shows Guildford as having less food retail square footage in the town centre than other places in the UK. I am an ex-employee of Experian, and whilst this may be factually correct, I have to ask, “so what?” What’s so great about becoming a homogenised, generic town centre like so many others as opposed to keeping Guildford unique and special?

I agree with Mr Smith that GBC does have a responsibility to act commercially on behalf of us as tax payers , but that is not their sole remit – it’s just not as black and white as that!

We are extremely lucky to still have a market in Guildford on Fridays and Saturdays, with a good range of stalls selling fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and baked goods. We also have two local ‘corner’ shops, selling a decent range of every day essentials.

I am sure many of us would hate to lose these – they are great ways to shop locally, eat healthily and support small businesses.

If Waitrose were to have a detrimental impact on the market and our local grocery shops, I believe this would be a loss to Guildford. I bet there are some interesting data to be found on the net impact of new town centre supermarkets on small, local businesses and produce markets.

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