Competition is nothing new

SIR - As a young teenager living in the Newport Road area of Barnstaple I recall it was a thriving community where there were four butchers, two dairies, three grocers, a newsagent, hardware shop, baker, TV/radio shop, chemist, Post Office, two greengrocers, two fish and chip shops, an iron foundry, a sweet/ice cream shop, a barber and a ladies hairdresser, shoe repair shop, a garage selling petrol, a cycle shop, a soft drinks manufacturer, painter and decorator, an upholsterer, a NatWest sub branch and other shops selling a mixture of goods.

There was little need for residents to go into Barnstaple for day to day needs. In later years many of these shops disappeared, the grocers perhaps because of the arrival of the ‘High Street’ supermarkets such as Ford & Lock, Gateway etc.

The arrival of out of town shops such as B&Q and Homebase also had an impact on the small shops not just in Newport Road but also Barnstaple’s town centre shops some of which themselves, such as Halfords and Currys moved out to larger premises at Seven Brethren Bank and Roundswell.

The ‘High Street’ supermarkets also started to move out to larger premises and many of the town centre grocers which we grew up with such as Home and Colonial, Liptons and Maypole simply became a memory.

Last week’s Gazette carried a feature ‘Supermarket plans come under fire’ setting out the reasons given by those opposed to Morrisons and Asda creating stores either side of the new Taw Bridge.

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The site on which Morrisons wish to build their store is still in use whereas the site on which Asda wish to build theirs store is currently no more than a ‘bombsite’, likely to deteriorate more because manufacturing activity there has now ceased. Development of that former Leaderflush Shapland site may well trigger the development of the whole Anchor Wood Bank area. Leaving the site as it is will simply mean the continuing existence of an eyesore on one of the main routes into Barnstaple for the foreseeable future.

Tesco opened its first store at Rose Lane, Barnstaple, some years ago but in recent years seems to have been given free rein to open further stores in North Devon. I understand there is the likelihood of a Tesco store being opened in South Molton, plus a new store at Bideford and we now understand there is the likelihood of a Tesco Express store being opened in Barnstaple’s High Street just a short distance away from an established convenience store.

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Even Lidl has four stores in North Devon. In view of all of the above can people be blamed for thinking that those opposing the development of new supermarkets in Barnstaple are actually trying to stifle competition to the disadvantage of the people living here in Barnstaple and in North Devon generally?

Are Barnstaple’s Town Centre Management people going to blame M&S, BHS etc for the demise of the four major men’s outfitters which had shops in the High Street in the 1960s - Burtons the Tailors, Hodges Menswear, Fifty Shilling Tailors and John Collier.

What is happening now in town centres throughout the UK is nothing new and will continue to happen long after we are gone.

Yours sincerely

Robin Harman, Barnstaple

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