As Tesco prepares to submit plans for a superstore in Barnoldswick, residents and traders in the town remain divided over whether it is wanted.
Around 350 people attended a public exhibition in the town three weeks ago. Tesco later revealed 74% of attendees were in favour of the plans, with 15% objecting.
Since then, this newspaper has received a strong reaction from people on both sides of the debate.
The supermarket chain wants to open a store in Ravenscroft Way, buying up part of the land belonging to L&P Springs.
Tesco said the store would create 175 jobs, as well as safeguard the future of the bed springs company and its 36 staff.
The town’s Chamber of Trade has said it will oppose the plans because of the effect on independent retailers.
Florist Gail Usher, who owns House of Flowers, in Frank Street, said it would be a “crying shame” if Tesco moved into town.
“I asked Tesco to name a town like Barnoldswick where a supermarket had moved in and the town had gone on to prosper, but they haven’t got back to me.
“Historically, people don’t drive to supermarkets like Tesco then decide to walk into the town to look around.
“The community will change, and the look of Barnoldswick will change. It is a fantastic town, with a village atmosphere, and a lot of people have put the effort in to make it look so wonderful. I think it would be a tragedy for Barnoldswick as a whole.
“We are only a few miles away from other supermarkets, and 74% of 350 people is not a majority in a town of 11,000 people.”
Nick Tofalos, who runs Pendle Osteopathic Practice in the Rainhall Centre, called on residents to stand up to the Tesco “threat”, saying: “I am proud of Barnoldswick, it has charm, friendly people, a great town square surrounded by unique shops, butchers, a greengrocer, florists and many other delightful boutique businesses.
“To Tesco, I am a pound sign – come in spend my money and get out. Their shops are soulless temples to greed, where we are forced to buy from someone else’s selection. I think Barnoldswick’s finest outshines anything a buyer from Tesco can put on their shelves.”
Katherine Lawson who works at Liddell’s Bakery, in Albert Road, said she thought Tesco would ruin the town. She said: “It would ruin the community atmosphere, as the town centre shops are what Barnoldswick prides itself on.”
Steve Hirst from Hirst Butchers, in Newtown, believed he would keep his customer base, as people can already choose whether to buy their meat at a supermarket or a local butcher.
He said: “But it is going to split the town. I’ve lived here 20-odd years since opening the shop and we rely on local trade.
“Over the last 20 years, supermarkets have circled us at Colne, Burnley and Skipton and now Booths is coming to Barrowford. They have nothing to do with the needs of people, it’s their own needs.”
But some residents are in favour of the plans. One, who did not wish to be named wrote to this newspaper, saying: “It will be even smaller than the one at Skipton, with no cafe or petrol pumps. I cannot see how it can possibly affect the majority of small shops we have.”
Shopper Janet Johnson was in favour of the Tesco store: “It is important to support trade within the town,” she said, “But I think Tesco could bring in more people. I travel to Asda as it is closer than Tesco at Burnley.”
A Barnoldswick resident, who also works in a food business in town, but did not wish to be named said: “It will be convenient, and I am all for it. I think we’ll still get customers because elderly people still like to shop in the town centre. And the schoolchildren will still come because they wouldn’t want to trek down to where Tesco would be.”
Helen Rimmer, a member of Friends of the Earth and part of the Tescopoly alliance of organisations that highlights the negative impact of supermarkets on communities, said towns like Barnoldswick had been affected by supermarkets moving in.
She said: “They divert trade away from small businesses that are already there. It takes money out of the local economy and we know money spent in local shops is kept in the town.
“We are concerned about so much power in the hands of supermarkets. Tesco has a third share of the grocery market in the UK and a large number of planning applications submitted. It gives them more power to drive down what they pay to farmers and suppliers, which is not sustainable.”
She said while it can be difficult for community groups to stand up against supermarket plans, councils have turned down applications on the basis the store would affect the vitality and viability of the town centre.
She said: “My advice to residents is try to shop locally. Once shops are gone, it is very difficult to open new shops, especially when there is a massive Tesco absorbing trade.”
Coun. David Whipp encouraged people in town to have their say on the application when it is submitted later this month. He said: “There will be a 12-week period before a decision is made. People can comment online on Pendle Council’s website, or submit their views by letter. It is important for everyone to be given the opportunity to engage in the debate.”