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Peter Such

Peter Such

A view of Great Berkhamsted from Cooper's fields. 

Peter Such lives in Great Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England
Formerly working in printing and publishing Peter Such is currently an occasional writer on diverse issues, as the mood takes him.
He has regularly put his views to the test of public opinion, which is how he twice ended up as mayor of his home town.
 He also stood for The Referendum Party in the UK General Election of 1997.
Also on Twitter as Peewit2 (he doesn't take it seriously) and on Facebook as himself (Peter.Such.5)

Last published: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 15:26

From WeeklyCommentary now "LidlforBerkhamsted" SEPTEMBER 2014

TUESDAY 2nd SEPTEMBER 2014 [afternoon post]
Haven't been involved with council issues for some time. Most impresssed with Borough's technological changes and personnel facilities and with the Town Council's web site and related digital provisions. Not so happy with its inability to codify a report, so that references can be made to itemised stab points, rather than having to quote from their report in putting together a meaningful response to Lidl's application for building a store in Berkhamsted. This was famously parodied by the Daily Mail, which seemed overkeen not to understand what was at stake—not that the town's council seemed to have much idea either.

A more rational response is to be gained from Great Berkhamsted's own web tv station Dee

I would record my disappointment that BTC’s response to Lidl's planning application is to produce an unannotated report to which it is difficult to respond without quoting.

Extracted from BTC Planning Minutes 140721

The Local Planning Policies relevant to this application are Saved Local Plan Policies 31and 44 and Core Strategy Policies 15 and 16.
Taking these planning policies into account and considering the arguments put forward in support of this application, we object to this application on the following grounds: “

My Response.

  1. Plan policies change according to factual change and proper planning should take into account the continuity of change, which is not subject to specific periods of time. [reference “last Core strategy was 2013”].
    1. This ties in with Core Strategy Policy CS6 “favours a ‘town centres first’ approach”. That ties in with a series of housing estates of mixed rent, freeheld, and subsidised housing, the last, being the very people seeking such resources on their door step, all within easy footfall and housing specifically provided by the council. The very people in need for such resources as highlighted by The Daily Mail Saturday July 12 “The Rise of the Lidl Classes”. As a bachelor I spend £3,000 a year in Waitrose. Multiply that by a potential minimum 3,000 persons’ custom why is BTC intent on denying Berkhamsted such commercial vibrancy and stating they should spend their money in someone else’s town? Where is the logic?
    2. If consideration/awareness should be given to Hemel and Tring then obviously consideration/awareness should be given to Northchurch whose community centre (taken as St Mary’s) is a walkable distance and whose own “shopping centre” is singularly diminutive in relation to potential footfall, specifically enhanced by previous council housing policies. One must remember that historically the Northchurch community is arguably older than Berkhamsted’s and what is “outskirts of Berkhamsted” is “inskirts to Northchurch”. Much of Berkhamsted’s Northeast is in fact in the parish of St Mary’s Northchurch.
    3. There would be no “over Convenience store provision” since provision must be made for new housing being built at the Hall Park end; that Tesco by its own name change has downgraded its own ‘super market’; Waitrose is beginning to show signs of potential overload at certain times; the new M&S development is disappointingly small in relation to perceived site potential and is itself too easily overloaded. All of which are related to that aspect of the town most easily accessible to that part of town described by one councillor (The Gazette July 23) as “hills too steep for walking”. [My experience of “overload” is periodic visits over months causing an increasing determination to avoid those times. “The proposed Lidl will(our emphasis) draw some turnover from elements of Waitrose’s and M&S’s offer but will not compete with the majority of their offer because of the limited overlap in product ranges and business models the Lidl store will not have an adverse impact on existing provision. Instead it will provide qualitative improvements to an already healthy centre by providing additional customer choice and a convenience offer that is complementary to the existing and committed provision." From personal active experience over several months I can confirm this statement in Lidl’s report]
  2. On which basis then (following last point of 1.3) are the hills not too steep to catch the bus? If a bus is to be used to reach Lidl’s in Hemel one would have expected a competent councillor to have provided the details which she specifically did not. What bus number? Would it be direct or require changing buses at Hemel bus station? Would it be guaranteed, when County Council are reviewing their bus policy seeking to reduce bus service provision? How does catching the bus negate the steepness of the hills when loaded with bus bought shopping? Does this mean the councillor was expecting to introduce a bus service around the hills? If so why not now, to cut down car driving “down the road”? What are the times in relation to shopping time by bus compared with time that could otherwise be spent in more productive matters? Are the buses to be provided with wifi facilities, as in trains to economise on time otherwise wasted?
  3. “The out of town location would detract from the compactness and vibrancy of the town centre contrary to the objectives within the Berkhamsted Place Strategy within the Dacorum Core Strategy”. Precisely how does the potential loss of £9million a year detract from the town’s vibrancy which is what the BTC is recommending should be spent in their “It would divert trade from Berkhamsted town centre including the twice weekly markets”. Is this a statement that these markets are failing to attract trade in their own right? They are unique markets in style and presentation not in any way replicated by the proposal.
  4. “excess convenience retail capacity” I have already noted existing potential for incapacity due to influx of more people and potential overload of present resources. 
  5. “…employment for which the site was designed so should not be a material consideration…”. At a time when the country is in desperate need to gain fuller employment ‘employment is employment’ and those desperate to survive on static pay levels should be given all the help they can to have council tax demand for benefits reduced in compensation. 
  6. “… wholly contrary to The Place Strategy for Berkhamsted as stated in the Core Strategy 2006 -2031.” This appears an admission that the document stated is inadequate. As previously stated planning must take into account the realities of need: that life is a state of continual change.
  7. “… that there was no quantitative need for a discount convenience store retail capacity in Berkhamsted..” I have already addressed this in previous points and would ask “How much of the present additional housing and therefore demand since was contained in this plan?” The statement of the plan admits:”…These studies and any conclusions which might be drawn from them are now outdated…” Thereby acknowledging that to be meaningful, planning must take into account that life and related facts are a state of continual change.
  8.  “…a gross over provision in the convenience store segment in Berkhamsted…” I do not believe that the reality of demand change is taken into account where it seems my practical (but subjective) experience indicates a tendency towards over-crowding, especially when there is national realisation that existing super market practices are failing to reach the market, emphasising the appropriateness of a Lidl approach. The report admits this and then seems intent on denying Berkhamsted the value of the additional trade. Why does it not want the town to be prosperous but prefer someone else’s town to be prosperous? But driving time is not relevant. They have previously emphasised the need for footfall! In a previous point they claimed “… and impact adversely on neighbourhood convenience stores as those at Gossoms End and Northchurch….” How can an increased footfall disadvantage nearby trade which would obviously adapt to meet Lidl’s failings or specialise where it does not? That is what happened when Waitrose moved location. There was a period of adaptation by nearby businesses.
  9. “… we feel sure that residents in these areas where there is no Aldi or Lidl at present, will be attracted to this store.. “ BTC does not want the town to be commercially successful? Why does the council exist?
  10. “While one might accept the proposition that the market niche that Lidl occupies might offer customers more choice, we cannot accept the proposition that it is so distinct from other retailers as to provide a lack of competition…” As the Daily Mail article (quoted previously) states there is major market change and I am astounded that the specific difference of reduced prices and “like for like’” product name change was deliberately left out of the listing.
  11. “Both Tesco and Waitrose and now M & S have stores in Berkhamsted town centre. Tesco also has a store in Northchurch and there are numerous smaller convenience stores in the immediate area and local neighbourhoods likely to be impacted by the proposal if approved.” Despite which all these arguments were over-ruled for Tesco and Waitrose applications in relation to the then existing nature of the historic market town.
  12.  “Berkhamsted is fortunate in having a very compact, centralised town centre with Waitrose and Tesco in focal positions. There are also two thriving markets… “ which is precisely why it is overloading and requires a wider shopping footprint exemplified by Waitrose’s need to control its parking and BTC’s previous looking at a second floor to the adjacent town car parking space clearly states that it is overloading.
  13. “… With very few exceptions the rather more traditional shops that one might find typically in a market town such as greengrocers, butchers, hardware stores, gents outfitters etc have all closed in recent years… “ What this statement specifically does not address is how this change reflects (or contradicts) the nature of market change nationwide. Most specifically the way stores (and that includes small shop holders) are providing more than they appear to provide. They are collection points for online purchasing to save transport to further locations; they are collection points for various (and increasing) carrier delivery options. Even the post office is now delivering on Sundays to match the competition. There is a first class nationally acknowledged and awarded independent butcher in Gravel Path and another one in Waitrose. Tesco lacks the ability to provide this style of shopping. To complain about lack of greengrocers is to deny the previously claimed value of the two street markets, including hardware but that is daily provided by Waitrose (again Tesco appears not up to the job by implication) and to a wider and more appropriate range for today than previous hardware stores provided, which refused to move with the times. In their category there is one at Cross Oak Road and more than one would appear to be overload in that commodity. Gents outfitters is an anomaly but no mention was made of what happened over the collapse of this historic building during renovation…?
  14.  “The Sequential Test: Centre site availability”  illustrates BTC’s proclivity for waltizing into possibilities rather than dealing with realities. The council is not there to write fairy stories but to deal with facts. It is the nature of commercial competition that you are either alive or dead. Water Lane’s controllers are clearly dead and certainly not understanding the market for there is no indication of any intention of their maximising their opportunities.
  15. “Surely there should be a need to prove that a site which is designated for class B uses could not attract, and be used for, similar uses in the future should a plot become vacant.” The point at issue here is that subsequent additional housing has since been put up and replacements for previous council flats are currently being built, increasing the desirability of footfall shopping and rendering more inappropriate the current classification. Provision for such heavy vehicles as to require an attendant to see such vehicles clear their yard onto the high road, holding up traffic over several phases of lights, as I personally observed on Monday 1st September is now an increasingly unacceptable location. I have frequently experienced tailbacks due to the difficulty in negotiating such heavy plant (though I will observe 'with expertise').
  16. “While GVA claim that the proposed store will generate some 41 jobs these are not B class jobs so do not count as employment in this sense.” As previously stated, ‘employment is employment’ and the country is in desperate financial straits due to the failure of socialist policies to deal with the realties of market conditions.
  17. “Clearly, then this proposal is wholly contrary to the stated Place Strategy for Berkhamsted as set out in the Core Strategy in terms of its overall vision for the town as well as local objectives in respect of business development, employment and land usage”. Visions are visions, the application is dealing with the reality of the situation and planning must be accountable to facts: that plans understand the realities for which they are designed—life is a state of continual change.
  18. “This proposal is likely to raise some serious highways issues concerning the significant increase in traffic, the store access, and vehicles turning on to and off the already busy A4251.” As previously quoted these situations exist as a direct result of the present classification. Thus this quote highlights the argument for changing classification. The object is footfall. The government and NHS proclaim the need to encourage footfall not car driving. The additional and existing household areas indicate the proclivity for footfall. The ageing population necessitates footfall or the use of taxis, further enhancing employment prospects.
  19. “The authors of The Transportation Assessment -Turner Low Associates- go to some considerable lengths to play down the amount of travel to the store likely by car.” This is a statement by a council that seems totally bereft of the realities quoted at 18 and 17 and in fact bereft of the wider change of life generally.
  20. “ The close proximity of bus stops to the site will hopefully, (our emphasis) result in a greater number of trips (by public transport) being generated by the development than the town’s average." Is BTC’s emphasis due to their honest recognition of county’s desire to reduce bus services, thus making this point singularly unreliable? I referred to bus service options in earlier points.
  21. “Given the topography of Berkhamsted, characterised by steep hills either side of the main thoroughfare, and the older age profile of its residents, we feel that despite their best endeavours to convince us to the contrary with all their modelling the applicant’s consultants have grossly underestimated the impact of this development on car usage as well all the highways and access issues associated with the proposed development on this site.” Does BTC really know so little about the town? The area designated is that end of town where the hills are less steep. Acknowledging there are steep hills how comes the argument for bus trips to Hemel is rational when filled shopping bags will be trundled up the hill from the bus? Why is there no provision for bus services up the hills in the light of such acknowledgement? If bus services are desirable, why is the county council seeking to reduce them? All these points should have been presented at the time in a comprehensive meaningful report. As would have been the case in the days when Independent councillors were in charge of the council. Is the present council requesting a change of councillors?



At the meeting from the public: “The lack of staff parking provision.” No note of such provision was made for the Woods development in the centre of town when the proprietor then asked for public car space be allocated to his need since he had chosen to take up such provision for staff by increasing his selling area? I believe the council did not agree, rightly.

Nearly twice as many people have voted in favour as those voting against [The Gazette July 23 2014] This is not a statistic that clarifies financial definition but looking at the range of housing as quoted in my report and specifically mentioned in 1.1, confirms unequivocally there is a demand which present facilities do not provide. I can speak from direct experience of Aldi and Lidl in Aylesbury. Not specifically for shopping there but for being there while visiting relatives and therefore shopping, while myself being a regular customer of Waitrose and not in any way dissuaded to M&S, the shopping area is too small snd restrictive.


Peter Such