Campaigners Fight Birmingham’s Out of Town Supermarket Plans

Our recent story about proposed developments at Acocks Green has drawn a reply from local campaigner Julie Larden.

BirminghamThere seem to be a glut of ‘out of town’ supermarket development plans in Birmingham this summer.  This is at a time when there are worries that the local high street is dying, and the government have paid an expert: Mary Portas, to investigate, and to help ‘bring the bustle back’ to the town centre.   

Three Birmingham suburbs currently threatened with more supermarket blight are Acocks Green (Morrison’s)  Erdington (Sainsbury’s) and Stirchley (Asda). In each case, the big worry campaigners have about these out of centre developments is that they will take trade away from the existing suburb centre, causing the death not only of smaller supermarkets already there but of other local shops in the vicinity, potentially leading to the collapse of that heart of the English suburb, the suburban high street.  These centres could become ghost towns, as shoppers flock to the hypermarket with plenty of everything, and easy parking.

In the case of Acocks Green the proposed Morrison’s plan, due to be submitted at the end of August 2011, for a site not more than a mile from Acocks Green centre, involves a store twice the size of the local Sainsbury’s in the centre of Acocks Green. However, the plan also comes fast on the heels of an approved huge Tesco development to open in 2012 at  the old Swan shopping centre in South Yardley, just down the road, and a new Asda development approved for Parkgate in Shirley, a couple of miles in the opposite direction. Local campaigning body Acocks Green Focus Group have support from their councillors and the Acocks Green Town Centre Manager. However, they are aware that with Birmingham City Council already investing in the new-style retirement village to accompany the proposed store there is a steep hill ahead in opposing Morrison’s. There is concern that the price for losing, however, could be a decline not only in their local shopping centre, but, consequently, in the suburb of Acocks Green itself.  More details can be found on here.

Meanwhile, Erdington is also facing a new threat of its own in the form of a plan for a two storey, 400 car park space, new Sainsbury’s. This development would, again, be away from the beaten track of the main high street area. Campaigners here also fear that shopping will move from the present hub to the new supermarket on the Sutton New Road, and that traditional shops such as greengrocers will lose out. The council also currently appears to be exacerbating the situation by introducing parking charges in Erdington high street, whilst shoppers using the proposed supermarket would enjoy free parking. This is really stacking the cards against local traders. Erdington MP Jack Dromey is backing the fight against Sainsbury’s proposal. As with the Acocks Green proposal, no formal plan has yet been submitted. 

There is the same concern with the Asda proposed for Stirchley shopping centre. This would be on the extreme edge of the very long length of the Pershore Road where the Stirchley shops are, and well set back from the street. It seems unlikely that Stirchley Asda shoppers would bother to walk to other shops in Stirchley. In addition, there is an existing Co-op and a Tesco already approved for Stirchley, so, again, as in Acocks Green, yet another supermarket hardly seems necessary. The Planning Department deadline for objections to the Stirchley Asda plan was 7th July.  Stirchley campaigners against Asda have been supported by Birmingham Friends of the Earth. Campaigners in other areas will be watching the result with interest. More details: here and  here.