Herts Ad Comment: Sainsbury’s to blame for unpopular supermarket decision

Co-op by The Three Hammers pub

Co-op by The Three Hammers pub - Credit: Archant

The unpopular decision to build a supermarket in the former pub garden of the Grade II listed Three Hammers pub was a cash-grabbing exercise by all parties concerned.

The pub who sold the land, the developers reaping the benefits and the supermarket giant who saw an opportunity to squeeze out the independent traders down the road.

Despite a mountain of opposition from local residents in the public consultation process, the decision to develop the site was made at appeal, with no regard for the impact of the scheme on those who live and work nearby.

In fact, it was inefficiencies within the district council’s own planning department which allowed the appeal to succeed, as their bid was not determined within the statutory timeframe.

But after ruthlessly steamrolling ahead with their plans for the site, Sainsbury’s did a complete about-face and walked away from the project without any warning or publicity, allowing the Co-op to step in and take advantage of the planning permission which had been granted.

Had the corporate power of Sainsbury’s not been behind the scheme to begin with, it is unlikely it would have succeeded, but the company showed a complete disregard for the consequences, merely citing “changes in the retail industry” as the reason for them pulling out. One might ask how a company with the resources and business acumen of Sainsbury’s made such a blunder in its future growth - wasting thousands of pounds in twice appealing the planning decision on this site - but that won’t help those residents and traders in the vicinity of the Three Hammers.

Now they are left with an unsightly Co-op which has already flouted planning laws with its illuminated sign, and unquestionably an inferior retail offering to what they had begrudgingly accepted was coming.

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But will local residents find themselves unable to resist the temptation of this convenient supermarket and maintain their support for independent retailers down the road?

We saw a similar dilemma in Harpenden when a Tesco Metro opened on the Luton Road, squeezing out existing retailers and causing massive disruption during the building work. It too was given permission for illuminated signs despite objections.

But after a lot of hot air at the time the store opened, it soon became accepted as a part of the local landscape, and the history of the planning fight was forgotten.

Whether this will be the situation in Chiswell Green remains to be seen, as while some sections of the community are intent on boycotting the new Co-op, there are others who have welcomed its arrival and look likely to become regular customers.

At the end of the day, it is Sainsbury’s who are to blame for this controversial development, the Co-op merely took advantage of their U-turn over the site and stepped in to fill the gap. Maybe that’s something for residents to consider when ordering their next supermarket delivery?