The latest meeting of the Todmorden Development Board voted to continue to engage with Aldi regarding their proposal to build a much larger supermarket on Burnley Road, a site for which they already have planning permission. This is to be considered by Calderdale Council in the near future.
A feasibility report on the use of the college building has been prepared by the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance group and was presented to the Development Board. This included the findings of a survey in which only 12 per cent of 522 local people said they were in favour of the Aldi proposal, whereas 79 per cent of respondents would like to see educational opportunities offered at the college, 77 per cent community meeting rooms, 55 per cent work spaces, 47 per cent residential courses and 32 per cent visitor accommodation.
No one is under any illusion that it will be hard to find a sustainable future for the college building. The contention by Calderdale’s officers that the building is not ‘fit for purpose’ is misguided and shortsighted. According to their criteria Todmorden Town Hall would also fall into this category. All buildings can be reconfigured by clever architects to become reusable, not least this one.
Please let’s be clear as to what is at stake here. Aldi now propose to build a new supermarket that is as big as Morrisons. Is this what we really want in a town of 15,000 people?
It is perhaps understandable that Calderdale Council, and the councillors on the Development Board, want to rid themselves of a troublesome facility, despite what the people of Todmorden think. But this is a short term approach, not to say one which goes against the wishes of local residents whose interests they purport to represent.
Let us also not be naïve as to the motives of Aldi. Like those who came into town before them, they have done their research. Many of the shoppers who would use their proposed large supermarket would drive here from elsewhere. This is at a time when pollution levels in the Valley are at a record high and there are serious traffic problems on local roads. Some say this scheme would create local jobs. This is not so. There would merely be a transfer of employment of those currently working in our existing large supermarket to another. Not to mention the impact it would have on our much loved market and independent local shops.
We all know that money is hard. There is, however, a trend towards grants supporting community led initiatives such as the possible redevelopment of the college building into an innovative local hub, including continuing its role as a well used children’s centre.
As part of the discussions around the town council’s forthcoming Neighbourhood Plan a series of workshops are being held, the first of which is a drop-in session in the Town Hall on Saturday, January 28 at 10am. In this workshop people will have another chance to share their views on the future of the college. Please come along. We should not stand by and let others, including powerful retailers, decide what happens in our town.
Dr Lindsay Smales, Bar Street, Todmorden