Inquiry to determine future of town centre

Artist's impression showing how the new Asda store in Todmorden may look
Artist's impression showing how the new Asda store in Todmorden may look

THE future of Todmorden town centre will be determined as the public inquiry into a proposed supermarket on Halifax Road begins next week.

Asda is seeking planning permission for a new 20,000 sq ft store on the gateway site, which it says will create approximately 160 jobs for local people.

But many councillors, traders and residents are objecting to the plans, saying another supermarket would have a detrimental effect on existing businesses in the town centre.

A planning inspector will make the final decision based on evidence heard at the inquiry, which begins at Todmorden Town Hall on Tuesday, July 24.

Philip Bartram, Asda’s senior property communications manager, said: “We have a long-standing interest in opening a new store in Todmorden and remain fully committed to bringing a great new offer to the town’s shoppers.”

Asda had previously been granted planning permission for a new store on the site of the Abraham Ormerod Centre and Olympia cinema, on Burnley Road.

But following Sainsbury’s decision to withdraw from its appeal for a store on Halifax Road, Asda became the “named operator” for the site.

“We believe that the Halifax Road site is a more appropriate size than the previously consented scheme on Burnley Road,” Mr Bartram said.

“If we are able to develop a new Asda store at Halifax Road, we would relinquish the existing planning consent at Burnley Road, and help to bring forward new development proposals for alternative uses on the site.

“It is in everyone’s interest that Todmorden continues to thrive in the long term and we want to play a key role in that.”

Todmorden town councillor Ian Cooper, who will speak on behalf of the objectors at the inquiry, fears that town centre shops will be “wiped off the face of the earth” if the appeal is successful.

“If we are successful in fighting the appeal, I believe the land value will come down on the Halifax Road site, which will open up opportunities for other forms of more sustainable development,” he said.

“That would be better for the town centre’s welfare.

“We may be a super market town but we are not a supermarket town.”

Coun Cooper added that Asda would be “foolish” to walk away from the existing planning permission on Burnley Road.

James Gregory, chairman of Todmorden Pride, is disappointed with Asda’s change of approach.

“If Asda win, people will be walking around Todmorden Market and saying ‘Eureka’ if they meet somebody.

“Half the stalls on the market will cease immediately in my opinion, if not more,” he said.

“We are going to have a boarded up town centre.

“The implications of that are dramatic.”