COUNCILLORS have recommended refusal of Sainsbury’s amended store plan despite new figures showing nearly 80 per cent of Todmordians are now backing the supermarket.
At last week’s meeting of Todmorden Town Council’s development committee, members voted against the application for the Halifax Road gateway site on the grounds of over-intensification of supermarkets in the town, concerns regarding the building design, and vehicular access and traffic concerns on Halifax Road.
Councillors also wish to keep the development options for the land open as it could soon form part of the town plan.
They also believe that the application does not comply with planning policy.
Coun John Lockhart said: “As much as I like Sainsbury’s, I don’t think Sainsbury’s, on top of what we have already got, is necessarily the most attractive proposition in the town.
“For me, that seems like a strategic site for the town and I think we need something strategic for the future of Todmorden.
“Once we allow that site to be developed, we have closed off all the options.”
Coun Mark Catterall said: “I have been torn by this plan.
“There are positive things to be said. In a time of high unemployment there’s the possibility of Sainsbury’s, who would create much needed jobs in the area.
“But there is the fact that there are four other supermarkets. We are going to be seen as a joke in the valley: Todmorden – supermarket town.”
Coun Margareta Holmstedt said: “I’m sure we are all convinced that this would have a very serious detrimental effect on the town centre and trade there.”
Coun Brian Hewson said the site is an eyesore and gives a bad impression to people coming into the town.
“It seems to me that Sainsbury’s, at the moment, are the only ones who are coming up with a viable, costed out means of putting that land to some use,” he said.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said a survey carried out on the first design found 42 per cent of people were in favour of the supermarket plan.
When the same people were asked for their views on the amended design, 79 per cent of respondents gave it their backing.
Changes made to the store design include improving the link with the rest of the town by having the door on Halifax Road, having the cafe overlooking the canal and changing the materials to be used in the construction of the supermarket to a predominance of stone and timber.
The spokesman said Sainsbury’s, the market and independent retailers could exist side by side.
“The impact on the town centre is a very contentious issue and we have not been able to speak to anybody who has said they will stop shopping in Todmorden town centre if we open another supermarket,” he said.
“The market has its own attraction and its own customers, as do all the other independent retailers.
“Our intention is that we know a lot of people who live in Todmorden or close to Todmorden get in their cars on Friday and Saturday and go somewhere else to do their supermarket shopping.
“If we can retain some of those people and persuade them to take the short walk to the rest of the shops in Todmorden and spend a fiver or a tenner, then everybody will benefit.
“We will actively market not just ourselves but the other shops in the town centre.”
Several objectors attended the meeting.
Coun Ian Cooper, who spoke on behalf of the objectors, said the changes incorporated into the amended design are of a “cosmetic” nature.
“The fundamental principle is that we believe the over-intensification of supermarkets in Todmorden is completely unhealthy,” he said.
“There would be an inevitable detrimental effect on the vitality of this small market town should it be allowed to proceed.”
The final decision will be made by Calderdale Council.
l Look to the future, urges MP - see page three