The supermarket at Rocks Green has now been confirmed as Sainsbury’s, with a small Argos click and collect style unit. If permission is granted construction is expected to begin towards the end of the year with the retail units opening in the second half of 2021.
Although I am not expecting the scheme to be turned by Shropshire councillors, this scheme will split opinion in Ludlow.
Many people will welcome an alternative to Tesco and Aldi. Those stores are in the centre of Ludlow, where it can be difficult to park at peak times. They will welcome a store which sells cheap clothes – and this is expected to include school uniforms in season. Others will fear that footfall will be reduced in the town centre, which was already suffering from high car parking charges before the Covid-19 epidemic.
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As an example of the split opinion, Ludlow Town Council is to register no objection to the latest proposal. But the chair of the council’s Representational Committee said wryly after Wednesday night’s vote: “I’m surprised”. He clearly had expected opposition to the scheme.
The store will serve Rocks Green where another 200 homes are due to be built. The first phase of construction of those is underway.
In 2014, retail experts estimated a supermarket at Rocks Green could cost Ludlow town centre a quarter of its trade. This scheme is smaller, by about 29 per cent, but there is still likely to be a big hit on established trade. Much of that hit will be taken by Tesco and Aldi. They can perhaps survive that. A more important worry is that trade will also be taken from independent retailers and Ludlow Market. If people do their main shop at Sainsbury’s, there is a very real possibility they won’t come into town at all.
Once footfall drops, independent shops will close and market traders will drift away.
The Rocks Green roundabout on the A49 is currently a green and leafy gateway into Ludlow. I am concerned that if this development goes ahead one current plans, it will be a brash urban scheme, completely out of place in the south Shropshire countryside. More work needs to be done to soften the impact of the scheme.
Currently the scheme has no accommodation for a bus bay. This is essential to allow the widest access to the retail units. The 2011 Census showed that 1225 households in Ludlow (25.1%) did not own a car compared to 15.8% across Shropshire. That’s unlikely to have changed. The 722 bus service already serves Rocks Green hourly. I see no reason why the frequency should not increase to half hourly to bring shoppers to Sainsbury’s from the across the town. The developers are current looking at our request for a safely positioned bus stop.