Retailers would have to raise their game

I, MANY Todmordians and people from neighbouring areas enjoy our traditional shops and market, but over a number of years there has been a decline in the amount of trade these retailers have been able to attract to our town.

This has caused shops to close and the downhill spiral to start.

Our two councils not surprisingly have failed to create the basic infrastructure that would encourage and give confidence to retailers to continue and new retailers to come to our town and attract more customers.

I suggest we have too many council officials who justify their existence by moving paper around that produces very little change on the ground and too many councillors who aid and abet them in their paper shuffling antics.

Look at Bramsche Square, the scaffolding outside the Town Hall, a leaky roof and a lift they putchased that is unfit for use and so on. I can already hear the squealing excuses but it is clear they failed to deliver soonenough and are encouraging the downhill spiral by creating the appearance of a failing market town.

Perhaps they should turn to the private sector. Perhaps Wetherspoons could give them some advice on how to get things done, or Tod Pride - love them or loathe them, they do get things done.

Sainsbury’s have taken a look at our town, done their homework and decided the derelict Halifax Road site on the edge of a traditional shopping area presents a business opportunity and are prepared to back their judgement by building a supermarket on it and, it is suggested, give £250,000 to improve Todmoprden’s environment.

They must believe they can attract sufficient people into Todmorden. It is then up to traditional retailers, with the help of the two councils, to up their game and to attract people from the bigger audience to the market and traditional shops.

If Sainsbury’s are kept out of town, then some people who prefer spending their money with Sainsbury’s will, and do, go out of town to a Sainsbury’s to the loss of our town. We need investment now, we need employment now, and we need more people to come to our town now.

I have been a retailer for 50 years and have learned the general rule you cannot force a customer to shop with you. A retailer must attract customers by offering the goods they want at the right price, sold in a convenient way that suits the customer.

To help traditional traders, one of the ways would be to move responsibility for car parking to Todmorden council. What people require is abundant, convenient, controlled, free at the point of use car parking.

What do our councillors do? Vote unanimously to keep Sainsbury’s out. They employ full time planners who state that there are insufficient grounds in planning procedures to refuse the application. This is confirmed by independent planning consultant Alyn Jennings, who states there is little or no grounds to reject it.

This advice also tells councillors that if Sainsbury’s went to appeal, permission would be granted. They are disregarding planners’ advice. Nowhere have I seen where councillors have disputed this advice, but they continue on their merry way and turn down the application.

I now see the Halifax Road flower shop has closed their doors while Makepiece are moving their retail operation to Hebden Bridge. Who can blame them.

Building a supermarket will not affect any trader. What could affect them is if customers choose to spend their money there, and which trader or councillor says the customer should not have that choice?

It pains me to think that the Conservative principle of competition being good is apparently being sacrificed by some Conservative councillors. Could it be in an effort to collect votes, popularity before principle? Shame on you!

Please Sainsbury’s take the application to appeal.

Trevor Cryer, Todmorden.