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Sainsbury's supermarket decision in Cheddar divides village

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: February 16, 2013

David Thorner, who inherited Steart Farm in Cheddar, after working without wages for nearly thirty years has sold part of the farm to Sainsbury's

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A divisive battle to build the first supermarket in one of the West’s most popular villages ended yesterday in favour of Sainsbury’s.

Hundreds of residents had fought against the plan, but one person who the decision to approve plans will be particularly popular with is the farmer who owns the land where it will be built.

David Thorner worked for his second cousin, Peter Thorner, Steart Farm’s previous owner, for 30 years without being paid a single penny on the understanding that he would take over the enterprise when the older man died.

But Peter left no will and it took a legal battle ending in the House of Lords to sort out the inheritance.

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In 2009 the Lords ruled that Mr Thorner should inherit the £2.3 million farm, while Peter Thorner’s sisters and niece were to share £750,000.

But some of the farm buildings were run down and little-used. The Sainsbury’s deal will allow Mr Thorner to concentrate on rearing a top quality beef herd.

But the ‘Keep Cheddar Special’ action group said it was dismayed by the decision.

It said it will now redouble its efforts against another proposal, from Tesco, to build on the village football ground.

The question of whether a superstore would damage independent shops, cause traffic chaos and degrade individuality and put off tourists split the ancient Somerset community. Some argued that trade was lost to Wells and Weston-Super-Mare because locals have to travel to find a superstore.

Approving the plan Sedgemoor District Council development committee said major road improvements are needed. It will also lead to the demolition of a cottage, while one family will find themselves living opposite the roundabout.

Tony Watts, chairman of the South West Forum on Ageing, and Cheddar resident said: “Our own parish councillors voted against this. The overwhelming majority of people in Cheddar who expressed an opinion were against this. So how on Earth, in a democratic society, can our town two local councillors – Dawn Hill and Peter Downing – provide the critical two votes that saw this application approved?

“The sad fact is, that the council officers and members were probably frightened by the prospect of a costly appeal from Sainbury’s and chickened out of making a decision in the interests of local people.”

The Tesco plan would lead to a new football ground for the local club, which is urging the public to support it. No date has yet been set to decide the Tesco scheme.

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  • waynejkc69  |  February 26 2013, 8:20PM

    You refer to a ' Section 106 agreement ' which involves new developers giving money to local authorities as part of the capital needed to increase public services i.e. a new housing estate means a need for bigger schools or better public transport, etc. These section 106 agreements are the means by which developers ' sweeten ' the planning deal. It actually refers to Section 106 of one of the main planning Acts. It is a difficult one I know. No matter what the poor are in some way affected. Many on good wages i.e. a Living Wage and above, rarely consider those on low income seriously. I have come across it for over a decade now. The only other way round it is for the Government to look at the Competition Act or the OFT to consider stopping supermarkets being advantaged by their constant demands for contractually cheaper foods from farmers, etc. The also needs to be a let-up by local authorities on business rates and parking fees so that town and villages can be helped. But let's face it, they have not done it yet and they never will. I try all the time to get local authorities, MPs, central government, etc to be fairer, but in over 10 years of trying they refuse to consider the issues proportionately. The supermarket will be built because it is good for the local economy in the short term i.e. jobs and prices. But in the long term it will destroy the village infrastructure as we know it. Children however, will grow up thinking it has always been this way and will know no different. The truth is, no MP, etc thinks they will get old and unable to travel or afford what they currently take for granted. Many examples exist. Besides, many will be on such massive pensions that they will not need to care about poverty. It's the truth.

  • tonywatts  |  February 26 2013, 5:48PM

    Some excellent ideas in there, Wayne - and I did meet with Sainsbury's beforehand to try and point out the problems - in the hope they might build solutions just like yours into their '106' agreement - but nothing happened. The problem with deliveries is that the vast majority of older people are not online - making it hard to order. The other is that the undoubted discounts available in supermarkets normally apply to larger sizes and two for ones - and if you're living alone on a tight budget, you can't always benefit from that. Also, ordering and receiving your groceries delivered doesn't get you out of the house and meeting people. In an ideal world, they would lay on buses to encourage those without transport to take advantage - but no offer so far, sadly - they probably don't think their smaller spends are worth the effort.

  • waynejkc69  |  February 21 2013, 1:29PM

    I can see that is a possibility. But there are delivery services from these major stores. So this should get round the problem. Maybe this could be suggested i.e. that the new store do a sensible, cheap delivery service. I don't think small shops cater for this. Also, large shops are cheaper and this means older people save. That can't be a bad thing can it?

  • tonywatts  |  February 21 2013, 10:57AM

    In fact, Wayne, one of the biggest considerations for those opposing was that many of the very large elderly population in Cheddar will not be able to get to the store because they don't have a car - while all the shops they currently use will close down.

  • waynejkc69  |  February 16 2013, 12:58PM

    Let's be honest, all those that voted against are people who can probably afford to travel and who can afford local prices. Big Superstores help those on rubbish money and tight budgets. I think it's a great idea. It also eliminates travel pollution so it is ' sustainable ' to have bigger supermarkets nearer. The real problem here is how to make the store ' blend in ' to an area of outstanding natural beauty. That is where the fight to develop really lies and tact needed. I find it funny that those who oppose do not consider the weaker party i.e. those without homes, cars or excessive time and money. It's so selfish.