Saturday, 14 January 2012

Make Way For The Supermarket

We have a new supermarket coming to Leek and it has caused quite a stir. When it was announced that the new supermarket was coming and the plans revealed that the intention was to build outwith the town centre, many protested saying that shoppers would be less likely to spend in the existing shops and that the independents would suffer as a consequence. Most fuses were blown however, when they announced their intention to make improvements to the road layout in town, and when it was suggested that the roundabout at the bottom of Derby Street, heaven forbid, might be removed.

Supermarkets are unfortunately a fact of life. None of us will stop them coming to our towns. We already have a Coop, a Morrisons, a Netto, an Aldi, and a Farmfoods, and the owners of the new supermarket are just after market share. Whether our businesses survive or not will largely depend on how positively we react and adapt to the situation instead of adopting a Canute style stance of trying to stop them coming at all. Certainly a bigger threat to all retail business is the increasing tendency for all of us to shop online rather than locally, the money leaving the local economy immediately and not even keeping local folk in jobs in the supermarket down the road. The message that we as retailers are shouting about through worthwhile schemes such as Totally Locally is don't do all of your shopping in the supermarket and if every adult in Leek spent just a fiver a week in a local shop then that would bring an extra 4.1 million pounds into the economy, safeguarding the jobs of local folk, and maybe even creating a few.


When any business comes to town, they should be incredibly careful about how they treat the environment. Historically, Leek was a very important town to the textile industry. The town was at the centre of the arts and crafts movement, Morris and Sugden both having offices and businesses here. At one time, Leek factories were responsible for the dying of cloth for the entire Catholic Church right across the globe. Consequently much industrial waste was poured into the River Churnet and at one time it was said to be the most polluted in Europe. All this has changed and with legislation in place to protect rivers from industry, the Churnet has  found some of it's former glory.

I'm lucky enough to fish our great rivers in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, the Dove, the Wye, the Derwent and the Manifold being my usual haunts. Anglers throughout the world are jealous of us who fish in these parts because of how blessed we are in scenic countryside, and in the diversity of flora and fauna that exists here, especially our wild brown trout, our grayling, and now, our salmon. I can honestly say though that of all the fishing I do in this part of the country, the upper Churnet is my favourite of all places because it is simply beautiful.

The small stretch of water in the picture above is a bend in the river Churnet right by the side of the road beside the Churnet works where the supermarket and it's related developments are to be built. Before the trees were felled in this spot, I would regularly stop and stand and watch free rising fish dimple the surface of the water was they smutted after small insects that had dropped their or that were emerging from below. The river was under the cover of 2 or 3 trees whose canopy afforded the fish shelter from predators in the form of Herons, and their roots would be a safe place for the smaller fish to hide from the bigger. This canopy was the home of many birds, and regularly, down the tunnel formed by the overhanging branches, kingfishers darted about between their favourite fishing pegs, now disappeared, and so too the birds.

Whilst we are all arguing about not wanting more supermarkets (at least not the ones that sell everything dirt cheap, bring us an Aldi Megastore any day of the week), and about our roads and a roundabout, these people are doing whatever they like, and I fear this is the sign of worse to come. The Churnet in Leek is only just recovering from a major pollution incident that happened within the last few years, it's trout and grayling have returned and along with them kingfishers, salmon and otters that haven't been resident in these parts for decades. I fear for their future.