At 3.20pm this afternoon, Shropshire Council’s Southern Planning Committee unanimously decided to approve a Sainsbury’s supermarket and Argos at Rocks Green. The development will also include a petrol filling station and four EV charging points.

This is a decision that will divide our town. In my last straw poll, 59% thought Sainsbury’s will be good for Ludlow. They wanted a greater choice of shopping. But just over a third of respondents thought the supermarket would be bad for Ludlow. They were concerned with the survival of Ludlow’s town centre. Make or break our town, we are going to get what one councillor described as a “gruesome supermarket building”.

The decision came after planning officers spent 20 minutes introducing the scheme after which there was five minutes discussion by planning committee members. I had previous submitted a comment as had the developer. Viv Parry, councillor for Ludlow South and Rocks Green, did not comment or attend.  

This decision ends a planning saga that began in 2014. After a lengthy debate across Ludlow and discussions in two planning committee meetings, the principle of the scheme was approved in 2017. I had proposed rejecting the scheme, but a counter proposal by Gwilym Butler for Cleobury Mortimer put forward approval because he said something “should be done for the ordinary people of Ludlow”. The development was approved by a single vote.

At that point, the committee thought it was approving a scheme with Lidl as the anchor tenant. But after the meeting, Lidl reconsidered its expansion plans and dropped Ludlow. Blackfriars Property began wooing other supermarket chains. Marks and Spencer came into the frame, planning to launch a new format food store in Ludlow. The scheme was redesigned to accommodate M&S. But then M&S walked away. Earlier this summer, Viv Parry and I were told that Sainsbury’s was the new prospect.

Because the scheme was approved in outline in 2017, the planning committee could not reject the principle of the scheme today. It did have the option of rejecting the design of the scheme or to modify the scheme but the only concerns raised by the two committee members who spoke were about plating and lighting. Councillor Cecilia Motley gave the quote of the day along the lines of – ‘with the greatest respect to Mr Sainsbury’s, supermarkets are not thing of beauty’. She hoped for ‘softening of that rather gruesome building’.

The prospect of an out of town supermarket has become much closer to a reality with today’s decision. The retail market is more turbulent than ever now and that means even permitted schemes can end up not being built. But Sainsbury’s has told us it is keen to get its spades in the ground and get on with the project.

Blackfriars Property is expected to start work on the site in the next few months to try and get the site reprofiled before the worst of the winter limits large scale earth movement. Working times are limited in the outline planning permission Monday to Friday 07:30-18:00 and Saturday 08:00-13:00. But emergency Covid-19 rules could mean that work continues until 9pm Monday to Saturday. I hope officers will resist any application for extended hours to preserve the peace and quiet of residents of Rocks Green.

We now need to move our attention back to Ludlow town centre. It has suffered this year with Covid-19 and the need to cancel most festivals. We need to plan for its long term future as a town of independent traders, distinctive shopping and a welcoming place to be.

It is an irony of the way our system works that we direct a lot of our resources to an out of town supermarket application but have very limited resources to protect one of the finest historic town centres in the country.

2 thought on “Planning committee unanimously approves Sainsbury’s supermarket at Ludlow, Rocks Green”
  1. As a long-standing admirers of Ludlow, and a frequent (at least weekly) visitor, I have been saddened to see the gradual encroachment of chain retail outlets into the town. I bring everyone who visits me to the town and I remember revelling in pointing out to them how it was so free of these outlets.
    This supermarket development will attract more shoppers from visiting the town centre, and, sadly, to a further decline in individually-owned shops. How long will all the amazing butchers (and I shop from them all) be able to survive. One day, residents will realise that the homogenisation of their town has become irreversible.
    Does a town the size of Ludlow need yet another supermarket? Competition is certainly adequately provided by Tesco and Aldi being alongside each other and an out of town centre store will mean fewer shopping visitors coming into town.
    Believe me, you will regret this move and miss what you have lost and cannot replace, with Ludlow’s streets being just the same as any other town in the land.
    I cannot understand what motivated supporters of this scheme. Such developments are always keen to promote the “new” jobs they are said to bring, but no account is taken of the loss of family businesses and their jobs. And remember, the profits of family businesses remain in the town and result in repeated spending. The profits of the supermarkets leave the town and most of the products they sell are not locally sourced – a lose-lose situation.
    Farewell Ludlow: you are doomed to a slow and agonising decline.

  2. I think John Burt has a point, but I suspect online shopping and Covid restrictions are having a far greater effect on Ludlow. Shops such as Tiger Lily and Pye Powder are lost to us, and they were never threatened by supermarkets. The market attracts many people, but councillors, perhaps understandably, recently voted not to allow more traders, so it is not really firing on all cylinders. We need a functioning Tourist Information Office (the one in Leominster is a good example) – hopefully that will happen when the Assembly Rooms are finally finished. The castle used to offer season tickets to locals, which meant we always took visitors there – that initiative has gone this year due to Covid, so we don’t take visitors there.

    But people will still come to Ludlow to visit our beautiful town, and locals will continue to use the local shops, Most people would have to drive to get anything from Sainsbury’s. Why would they drive to Sainsbury’s when most people can walk into town and buy better bread, meat, cheese etc? Why would they buy a coffee in Sainsbury’s instead of in the many local cafés? The shops most impacted by Sainsbury’s will be Tesco, Aldi and the Coop. I don’t imagine Myriad Organics or Harp Lane Deli or Hall’s butchers (to name but 3 at random) will lose custom to Sainsbury’s. People from out of town may even drive to Sainsbury’s, as they already do to Tesco, and then shop in town for other goods and services as well (eg to use the library or the banks). But you are right John – all of us must use our local shops as much as possible to keep them going. We must not persecute motorists who want to park in town, eg for evening events. The problems with the park and ride scheme have been often highlighted on this forum.

    Let’s finish on an optimistic note. Perhaps next year:
    – the food festivals, Ludlow fair, Ludlow Fringe etc will be back
    – the market will be back to full strength
    – Ludlow brewery will be open again with its new extension
    – the guided tours of Ludlow starting from the castle, the town ghost tours, the cinema in the Assembly Rooms, the concerts in the church etc, the myriad clubs and societies, all will recommence and attract people
    – in short, all the things that make Ludlow a vibrant community and that Sainsbury’s can never rival will reassert themselves! Well, we can hope!

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