The developer’s long-delayed retail impact statement for a proposed supermarket on the Mytholm Works site comes clean about a fact that Incredible Edible Mytholm has all along strongly suspected – that no supermarket is associated with the planning application.
The site owner has had to reveal this, because to carry out the retail impact assessment, they have to say how much trading the proposed supermarket will carry out. But they don’t know, because there is no proposed supermarket.
So, without a supermarket lined up, the developers’ consultants have had to create two scenarios, one for a “Top 5” supermarket, and the other for a “discount” supermarket.
A purely speculative planning application
This strengthens Incredible Edible Mytholm’s view that the planning application is purely speculative – an attempt by the site owners to drive up the price of the Mytholm Works site.
Incredible Edible Mytholm has learned from a meeting with the site owners’ representative Dennis Deakin, that the site owners are interested in selling the site to IEM – but only for a price that the site would command with planning permission for a supermarket and hotel. And in pursuit of planning permission, they are prepared to go to appeal if Calderdale Council Planning Committee turns down their planning application.
Incredible Edible Mytholm is inviting Dennis Deakin, as the site owners’ representative, to put their point of view in this blog post. We will add their reply as soon as we receive it.
A computer model, divorced from the realities of Hebden Bridge
To produce the retail impact statement, WYG (the consultancy group hired by developer/site owner Belmont Homes) have run data from pre-existing surveys and supermarkets’ benchmark figures through computer models based on the two scenarios – that if a supermarket can be found that wants to site itself on King Street, it will be either a “Top 5” or a “discount” supermarket.
They didn’t ask Hebden Bridge retailers for their assessment of how an edge-of-town supermarket would be likely to affect their trade – and, through knock on effects – their local suppliers’ businesses.
People who run successful Hebden Bridge retail businesses have first hand, expert knowledge of their customers’ shopping habits and preferences. They are the obvious people to ask for an assessment of how their customers are likely to react to the presence of a new edge-of-town supermarket.
WGY have simply done a desk job, based on a computer modelling exercise.
On the basis of this computer modelling, WYG concludes that neither the upmarket or downmarket version of the imaginary supermarket would significantly damage the vitality and viability of Hebden Bridge Town Centre – or Todmorden and the areas of Halifax that they imagine the imaginary supermarket would draw most of its trade from.
The retail impact statement claims that the imaginary “ modest scale supermarket” on the Mytholm Works site would have “locational advantages” for Hebden Bridge residents that would
“enable it to compete particularly with…Morrisons at Todmorden and the Tesco and Asda superstores in Halifax… and to clawback [sic] levels of trade to the Hebden Bridge area.”
This, it is claimed, will “reduce the length and amount of unsustainable car trips.” (4.09)
The fact that no supermarket is involved in the proposed development suggests that supermarkets like Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl may not see the point in setting up in Hebden Bridge in order to take trade away from their own supermarkets in neighbouring towns.
Perhaps recognising this inherent weakness, WYG hedges the developer’s bets, saying that:
- the retail impact statement shows that “the impacts of the foodstore will be benign” – the imaginary supermarket would “serve to strengthen the overall retail offer of Hebden Bridge and will encourage more local shopping, which will reinforce the town’s strong profile and may in itself encourage further investment” (5.11)
- the developers are not legally required to carry out a retail impact assessment for a proposed supermarket of the size they are imagining – despite Calderdale Council Planning Department’s insistence that they submit one
A possible inference is, that the retail impact statement may safely be ignored – should Calderdale Council Planning Committee criticise it.
Calderdale Council’s most up-to-date planning policy is that they will refuse planning applications for edge-of-town or outside of town supermarkets that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the town centre.
This is judged in terms of the impact of the proposal on local consumer choice and trade in the town centre and wider area, up to five years from the date of the planning application.
Developer says it doesn’t have to show that Hebden Bridge needs another supermarket
To identify that the imaginary supermarket would not have any significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Hebden Bridge Town Centre, WYG ran selected data through a computer to work out which existing businesses the imaginary supermarket would take trade from.
“Where appropriate”, WYG used data from the Calderdale Retail Needs Assessment (CRNA) (5.15) – a survey that aimed to assess the “qualitative and quantitative need for additional convenience and comparison floorspace in Calderdale” until 2026 (5.16).
However, WYG claims that, following changes to local authority planning powers, Belmont Homes doesn’t have to show that there is either a qualitative or quantitative need for a new retail development.
The implication being, that it doesn’t matter whether Hebden Bridge needs a new supermarket or not. (5.19) An implication which they hurriedly sidestep (5.20), asserting that “there is a clear need for the development proposed.”
If there is “a clear need” for the proposed development, this begs the question of why supermarkets, which presumably recognise a need or at least an opportunity when they see one, have not bothered to associate themselves with this proposed development.
Why don’t supermarkets share the developer’s view that there is a clear need for a supermarket on the Mytholm Works site, in order to satisfy Hebden Bridge’s requirements for “main food shopping” and to “address the problems of leakage”? (Which I think means stopping people driving to Halifax or Tod to do their supermarket shopping.)
The opinion of most Hebden Bridge shoppers, when questioned in an earlier survey on behalf of the developers, was that there is no need for another Hebden Bridge supermarket. The Hebden Bridge Public Survey 2012 (commissioned by Setbray Properties and included among the planning application documents) showed that when asked what Hebden Bridge lacks, 40% of the public who were questioned said “nothing” and only 14% said “a supermarket”.
A mix of data and assumptions
The retail impact statement uses data from Calderdale Retail Needs Assessment, Verdict UK Grocery Retailers, Experien G3 Micromarketer to identify:
- existing supermarkets’ trading performance and their benchmark turnovers
- where Hebden Bridge residents currently shop for “main food convenience goods”
To identify how much trade the imaginary supermarket would take away from existing comparable businesses, the retail impact statement starts from existing trading patterns in the area, using data from the sources just identified.
WYG says that this data shows that less than 40% of Hebden Bridge residents’ spending on supermarket food shopping stays Hebden Bridge.
“High levels of expenditure” on “main food convenience goods” go out of Hebden Bridge, mainly to Tod and Halifax. 17% is spent at the Thrum Hall Asda in Halifax, almost 14% directed at Morrisons at Todmorden and another 14% at the King Cross, Halifax Tesco .
The retail impact statement then decides how much of this existing trade would be diverted to the imaginary supermarket. It bases this calculation on
“the character of the development (with it widely accepted that ‘like competes with like’), popularity (based upon local feedback) and geographic location (proximity)”. (5.36)
Using these criteria, the retail impact statement
“ assumed that the proposal will divert most of its trade from equivalent facilities within, but mainly beyond, Hebden Bridge (i.e. other main food shopping destinations)”. (5.36)
Based on this assumption, the retail impact statement envisages that an imaginary “Top 5” supermarket would turn over £9.7 million/year in convenience goods.
Helping the Hebden Bridge Coop!
The retail impact statement identifies that Hebden Bridge Coop is over trading – ie it’s doing better than its benchmark turnover – so it can afford to lose trade and still survive. This is based on an “estimate” (5.44) that in 2018 the Coop will be overtrading by £0.6m.
Using data about the recorded shopping preferences of HB residents, which shows that they use the HB Coop more for top-up food shopping than for main food shopping, the retail impact statement anticipates that an imaginary Top 5 supermarket on the Mytholm Works site would draw
£1.9 million “from existing facilities in Hebden Bridge and £7.2 million from provision further afield.”
Of the imaginary £1.9m, it anticipates that £1.4m would be diverted from the Hebden Bridge Coop, and £0.5 from “other convenience goods provision in Hebden Bridge town centre” – mainly the Spar and Nisa shops.
In 2018, the loss of £1.4m trade would mean the Hebden Bridge Coop would be trading £0.8m below the Coop’s expected benchmark levels. The retail impact statement states that this wouldn’t be a problem for the Coop, since it would be “within 15% of expected benchmark turnover”, and that it would create
“more comfortable and convenient shopping conditions at the store and its car park without adversely affecting its viability”.
By taking away custom from the Hebden Bridge Coop, the imaginary supermarket would in fact be doing it a favour!
Impact on long term viability of supermarkets in Tod and Halifax
Of the imaginary £7.2m “trade draw” from supermarkets outside Hebden Bridge, the retail impact statement anticipates that 20% (£1.9 million) would be drawn from the King Cross Halifax Tesco, another imaginary 20% from the Thrum Hall, Halifax Asda and 15% from Morrisons in Todmorden.
This may be why no Top 5 supermarket is interested in the development – why would Tesco, Asda or Morrisons want to compete with their own supermarkets in Halifax or Tod?
The retail impact statement says the three affected supermarkets are overtrading, so they could all afford to lose the anticipated amount of trade and still survive.
However, in the case of the two affected Halifax supermarkets, the retail impact statement concedes (5.42) this is only an assumption, albeit one that “is considered entirely reasonable”.
The retail impact statement says that even if this assumption is wrong, it doesn’t matter in the case of the Halifax Asda and the Tod Morrisons, because these are
“in out-of-centre locations, and thus they are not afforded any policy protection by virtue of the Framework (which seeks to ensure that established centres, not out-of-centre destinations, do not experience significant adverse effects).”
Impacts of an imaginary discount supermarket
The retail impact statement then runs the data through the computer model for an imaginary Lidl or Aldi supermarket on the Mytholm Works site.
Background to this retail impact assessment
Background information and further links are available here.