I SUPPORT the plea of A Struggling Shopkeeper (Mailbag, February 21) for us all to have a critical look at the plan to build a large new Tesco supermarket on the site of Huddersfield Sports Centre. He/she is right that the proposed store will undermine small retailers and will generate increased traffic, partly by hastening the closure of village stores.
The Government’s Sustainable Development Commission said last week that too many supermarket practices were unhealthy, unjust and unsustainable. Worryingly, its report concluded that “Government cannot meet key targets on health, waste, climate change and fair trade without tackling supermarkets”.
Perhaps this is not surprising when over 70% of UK groceries are sold by four supermarket chains, but it adds urgency to the need to plan a robust response to Tesco’s expansion.
Perhaps it is time for Kirklees Council to establish what can be done locally – especially if this development goes ahead – to retain choice and diversity in our shops, promote local food, hold back traffic growth and encourage healthier living.
As transport costs rise and carbon reduction becomes a higher priority local sourcing will look even more attractive.
For example, more could be done by to promote locally produced food; competing with giant supermarkets is an uphill struggle for a fragmented supply chain. Farmers’ markets, specialist retailers, village stores, organic box schemes and doorstep milk delivery all offer alternatives but will increasingly need a stronger, more visible platform on which to compete.
Kirklees Council could also support moves to ensure local sourcing of school meal ingredients, starting with healthier free range chicken, as proposed by Green Party councillors in this year’s budget negotiations.
The SDC identifies six priority areas for Government and supermarket action. We urgently need a joined-up policy framework for supermarkets to meet targets on waste and recycling, nutrition and obesity, climate change, fair supply chains, ecosystems and water.
Opposing this development provides an opportunity to raise these issues and to highlight the importance to consumer choice of safeguarding existing outlets and encouraging local producers, before it’s too late and the Struggling Shopkeeper is no more.
Beaumont Park, Kirklees Green Party candidate for Crosland Moor and Netherton