Goodbye Ambergate Village Shop/Post Office… Hello Belper Tescoland?

2007 April 16
by Dexter M

When I started blogging a year and a bit ago, I really wanted to stay positive as much as I could. I made a resolution that I wouldn’t just rant all the time – I think I’ve stuck to that on the whole. And, one of the reasons I’ve not posted for nearly 3 months now, is that shortly after my last post I discovered something I had feared, but not heard about – that Tesco had plans to build a massive store in Belper on the site of the old Thorntons factory on Derwent Street.

I was pretty stunned.

After all of the great things going on there over the last few years since I’ve lived up here, this seems like such a massive backward step. I’ve seen :

  • the rise of the Farmers Market
  • the opening and great success of Fresh Basil (delicatessen)
  • flourishing local shops on Kings Street (Howarths, Fresh and Fruity etc.)
  • and of course the re-openning and run-away sucess of the Ritz Cinema

There’s even a “Belper Food Festival” on 15th July this year!

I decided to resist the urge to whinge and moan about the potential corporate bulldozing of Belper on this blog. After looking into it I just became more depressed – it seems the whole area where the development would cover already has “mixed used” designated in the Amber Valley Borough Local Plan – meaning, basically the principal for this kind of development has been established there. Also, it seems, this development has been mooted for quite a few years. Tesco seem to be playing a very long game (longer then any politician can) and have worked out a number of sweeteners – new relief road (bypassing Bridge Street), new library and other “facilities”. I seems like these “facilities” draw people away from the current shopping area (from Bridge Street up King Street to the market square) towards, er, Tesco.

The questions I have are :

  • Does Belper need another (even bigger) supermarket? – it already has 3 (Somerfield, Co-op and Morrisons)
  • Does Belper really need a relief road taking trafiic (and attention) away from the current centre? Is it really that bad?
  • What would we gain by placing a massive 24 hour, 80000sq.ft., 500 car park spaced supermarket right in the middle of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site? Doesn’t it go against the emphasis of conservation?
  • With the renaissance of Belper, largely through the efforts of it’s own independent business people and cultural pioneers, how will surrendering to the giant that is Tesco help the grass roots development of the town that is going on?

I’ll be going along to Belper Civic Forum AGM on Thurday 19th April at Belper School, to see what their attitude to all this is. And see if any difference can be made.

Which kind of brings me on to what woke me up again and made me so sad/depressed/angry…

On the way back from work today, I noticed our local shop/post office in Ambergate had closed. When I went back along later, a notice outside declared the the shop had closed due to “Early Retirement (i.e. Didn’t want to get up early any more)”.

I was, once again, a bit stunned.

I can’t, with had on heart, say we used the shop all the time, but did regularly go in the for papers, milk, booze and other bits and pieces – just the sort of thing you want a local “corner shop” for. I can understand their desire to retire – good luck to them. However it seems like another sign that I may be clinging on to an old fashioned notion that valuing the the independent and local is good.

I’ll keep clinging and fighting as best I can.

More to follow soon – be warned!

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