M&S Food has submitted its second application for a store outside the A49 bypass (23/04457/FUL).

Putting aside whether another out of town store will be good for the town centre, this design is worse than the last. It is quite out of keeping with the landscape and looks like an oversized intensive poultry rearing unit. That’s an image that is quite alien to the M&S brand.

The first design for this store was no more a white urban box. It was withdrawn when it was clear that it would not get approval by Shropshire Council. The next stage of design was a lot better. It mystifies me that has been discarded for a gross design. A carbuncle rather than a welcoming store.

View from Sheet Road roundabout

My initial reaction to the latest M&S plans is that they have evolved too far. They have tried too far hard to look rural and rustic rather achieving a low key profile that will disappear into the countryside. The new building is a design failure that will stick out like a sore thumb.

The site will be advertised with a totem sign on Sheet Road and a large, illuminated sign on the side of the building facing the A49. Why then does it need pitched roofs that stand five metres above the useful ground floor of the building? The pitched roofs are a folly that destroy the architectural integrity of the building.

The design went through three major phases. The first design of a white shed had no architectural merits and would have been at home on a retail park anywhere in the country.

The first design (withdrawn)

The third design of four peaks looks as though it is trying to imitate agricultural buildings in the countryside. It fails. It is an oversized rustic interpretation of the sheds that house intensively farmed chickens and pigs. The very opposite of the M&S ethos on food.

The proposed third design

The second stage of the design is far more interesting. Like the other two stages, it is a basic box containing the functional part of the building. There are no excess vertical projections. The low pitched roofs are in keeping with those in the local rural landscape. The external cladding avoids the oppressive darkness of the third stage design.

The second stage design

The lightness of profile and colour of the second stage design will allow it to blend in to the countryside more easily than the original white box or the current proposal which is a design disaster.

The treatment of the roof will be critical for views from a distance. Should it have solar panels? Or should it have a green roof that will promote biodiversity in a landscape that is currently biodiversity poor? I favour the green roof. Solar power is important but a county rich in power generation but biodiversity poor is not a sustainable county.

There is much to discuss about this proposal. As usual, I won’t be taking a firm position until we hear the all the arguments for and against when the Southern Planning Committee meets to make a decision.

14 thought on “Marks and Spencer: New plans for a Ludlow food store are a design failure”
  1. The second and third designs both look good to me. I think it would bring jobs and choice to the people of Ludlow. Additionally, I think it will bring people to Ludlow who would normally go to Kidderminster or Shrewsbury to use a Marks and Spencer Food Hall. Many people just seem unable to cope with change. With the new housing developments, Ludlow is changing anyway.

    1. There are two issues here. Firstly whether a new supermarket should be built in that location and secondly if it should be built there what should it look like. In terms of the first, it isn’t a green belt location, green belts are situated to the outskirts of large towns and cities to limit outward growth and coalescence. It probably is however in the countryside which is a specific planning designation. With the agreed outward expansion of Ludlow it will probably be hard to oppose in planning terms and if the planning department considered that was inappropriate development in planning terms it wouldn’t have got this far. As to its impact on town centre shopping it will in fact be more likely to compete with the Sainsbury supermarket just down the road. Somewhat ironic therefore that the owner of that site is opposing M and S That was another controversial decision and has created a precedent for the M and S scheme.
      In terms of its appearance, I don’t see a problem with the pitched roof option, the others are very bland and have no allegiance to a countryside setting, and dark facades are more recessive in the landscape. The three pitches also break up the elevation of what otherwise looks like an industrial building. But hey ho we will get what the Shropshire Planning Committee decide irrespective of what the local community think – as with the Sainsbury site.

  2. It is green belt. The planet is not producing more land
    I am not anti an M&S but it should make use of brownfield sites of which Ludlow has plenty. Customers could walk into town to independents at the same time. It will also open the way for more out of town retail which is not what an historical town needs or deserves.

  3. We need a Marks and Spencer Foodhall, lots of shops are closing in Ludlow we need people to come to Ludlow to do shopping and need up to date shops. Passing trade on bypass does not take business away from town centre.
    With all the new build happening the small Sainsbury’s that has been built will not accommodate the variety of food people want.

  4. The third design reminds me very much of the Earl of Plymouths supermarket in Bromfield. I think the second design is the best of the three. I still do not believe another supermarket is required. The green grocer in Ludlow has closed(I am told) because of pricing from the supermarkets. The result of all these supermarkets is inevitable, a town centre which will die. That means many other shops besides grocers as shops have an ambiotic relationship with each other which may not be realised by everyone. Of course, I don’t blame the supermarkets for forcing their way in. Those who are to blame are Shropshire Council’s planning department and of course those who shop in them . The supermarkets would eventually fail if no one used them. We need to be growing food not selling food which may well have been grown many hundreds of miles away. Have we stopped thinking about food miles? We need to be supporting British and local farmers, who in many cases,produce the highest welfare food in the world. Imported food often does not have such high welfare. Making it impossible for our own producers to compete.

  5. Same old arguments, same old obstructive comments. Lets just get it built. The last design is perfectly acceptable…. its not as if it’s in the centre of town after all!

  6. but in town we have vacant shops which used to be:

    Coral betting shop
    Nail Gallery + next door
    Victoria wine etc etc
    Costa (big premises!)

    and more besides – why build on a greenfield site when the town centre is struggling so?

  7. Ludlow is becoming a metropolis, far from the small personal town that I grew up in. We pride ourselves on our individual privately owned interesting high quality shops and feel that this new M&S will be another nail in the coffin for Ludlows individuality that attracts visitors.

  8. I like the third design. It’s no worse than the Ludlow Food Hall. I think it looks quite rustic & would fit in well. I am sure residents of Ludlow will not abandon the local shops in town & this store would give residents the best of both worlds. A good quality supermarket also attracts shoppers to the town.

  9. I can’t really get too excited about the design when it stands next to the industrial estate by the A49 and near fields carpeted in solar panels. If it had taken over the old supermarket premises on Galdeford, some people would complain it would kill local shops. Town centre shops are struggling for various reasons – banks and betting shops because this happens mostly online now, the former Costa because the remote landlord seems happy for the building to disintegrate, many because of ridiculous rents and business rates etc. The town will change because the way we live is changing. Look at Rickards – a great institution, but very short of stock. I went in to buy a zinc watering can – surely just what they should be selling, old-fashioned but sturdy etc. No, they don’t stock them – but the hardware store in Tenbury did.

  10. All the designs look ok to me, probably because I’m more interested about what’s inside so I hope this store gets the go ahead. I know there are three other supermarkets but it’s nice to have another choice where to shop.

  11. I agree with much of what has already been said by other correspondents above. I think it’s a shame the old town centre supermarket site on Galdeford isn’t going to be used. It has an existing car park adjacent (which could easily be extended if necessary, by sensitively building more spaces above the existing car park levels). I personally think M&S on this central site might actually attract people to visit the rest of the town and what remains of its existing outlets and offerings. Perpetuating out-of-town shopping – wherever it may be in the country – seems to fly right in the face of all current thinking on climate change, transport, and a host of other concerns. If however this is inevitable then we are all to blame. As for the latest store design – in my humble opinion I think it looks the most attractive of the three offered! Better than the huge but bland agricultural shed, and certainly far better than the original anonymous ‘white shoebox’.

  12. I am for an M&S in Ludlow they are simply unrivalled in terms of food quality. Is their reticence to use the Galdeford site driven by the cost of repurposing it? If so the Council should meet the difference between that and the unnecessary out of town new-build from their ‘green’ budget. It would also seriously boost town centre footfall.

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