Most town centre businesses who responded to a Hebden Bridge Retailers’ survey take a positive view of IncredibleEdible Mytholm’s proposed Growing Futures sustainable, community-owned food business on the Mytholm Works site. Comments from town centre businesses include, “Looks great,” “ A fantastic idea, especially the hotel that will attract more visitors,” “…a visitor centre would help focus the interest..,” “Excellent stuff, much preferable to the supermarket/hotel proposal.” “Brilliant!”
Myra James, the IncredibleEdible Mytholm management committee member who coordinated the survey, says,
“We are very pleased that most Hebden Bridge retailers who responded to our survey take such a positive view of our proposals.”
A few Hebden Bridge businesses offered a useful reality check, with comments like “the land owner will sell to the highest bidder,” “If you are prepared to take the financial risk regarding the proposals and find suitable backers because your ideas are financially sustainable, then go ahead.” And, gloomily, “The site needs a far more practical solution for the long term.”
IncredibleEdible Mytholm management committee member Dr Nick Green, from Incredible Farm in Walsden, was having none of such caution,
“This project will make the Calder Valley an eco-tourism destination of national and international importance. Last year around 1000 “veg tourists” from all over the world visited Todmorden for organised tours, and Growing Futures will confirm the growing reputation of the Calder Valley as an epicentre of food activism. Think of a northern Eden Project and you won’t be far wrong.”
The survey was carried out by IncredibleEdible Mytholm with help from the Coop’s Planning Development Manager (North). Just over 80 town centre businesses received survey forms, and 22 completed and returned them.
Supermarket would cause independent businesses to close
In contrast to the overall positive response to the Growing Future proposals, the majority of town centre retailers who responded to the survey think that a supermarket on the Mytholm Works site would damage their businesses – largely because it would reduce footfall in the town centre. They think that this adverse impact would cause independent businesses to close.
The survey also shows that such damage would not be limited to town centre businesses. 19 out of the 22 businesses who responded to the survey use local suppliers, mostly food and craft/clothing products. Seven of the businesses source over 50% of their goods from local suppliers. If the retailers lose business, the local suppliers will also lose business.
Asked about the impact on their businesses of a hotel on the Mytholm Works site, most town centre businesses saw this as positive. They expect that a hotel would increase the number of visitors to the town and that this would be good for their businesses. But one hotelier stated that a new hotel would adversely affect existing hotels and B&Bs, and that there is currently insufficient demand to justify a new hotel.
The IncredibleEdible Mytholm/Coop Planning Development survey also asked Hebden Bridge retailers if they had their own ideas for the site. The majority didn’t. Of the minority that did, the most popular idea was to use Mytholm Works site as a park and ride, tourist coach park and/or coach/car park. One retailer wanted a return to light engineering on the site and a few others wanted affordable housing.
Growing Futures – an ambitious vision and a healthy dose of realism
IncredibleEdible Mytholm hope that a business plan will soon show that Growing Futures is financially viable. If this is the case, the voluntary group will take steps to set up a not-for-profit, community-owned business that will raise the capital to buy the site and develop the business. Dennis Deakin, on behalf of Setbray and Belmont Homes who own the site, has confirmed that they are willing to sell Growing Futures the site at the going commercial rate.
Survey coordinator Myra James said,
“We’re taking the first of many steps to get the Growing Futures community-owned sustainable food business up and running. Growing Futures is an ambitious project, but not impossible – Hebden Bridge Community Association raised £3.5m to pay for the Hebden Bridge Town Hall extension. So we know not-for-profit community groups can successfully carry out large projects. Success is in no way guaranteed, and we appreciate that Growing Futures won’t flourish without a healthy dose of realism, as some Hebden Bridge retailers have pointed out.”