Campaigning to curb supermarket power

How can I carry out an impact study for a supermarket application?

You may want to gather some information to challenge figures submitted by a developer. Research for Friends of the Earth found that supermarkets often submit inadequate or even inaccurate information to back up an application.  Challenging this could be really powerful.  You can carry out some simple research into the impacts of supermarkets and submit your figures in your planning objection.  Such research can also be useful for future applications, to help other campaigners, and to provide useful information about the impacts of supermarkets (see more below).

Information about the retail impact of a new store on other existing stores in the area is always useful, as this is a major area that local authorities should consider. There may be other issues that you wish to collect information to challenge the local Council on, such as traffic flow and pollution levels in the area.

To carry out a retail impact study, you may want to measure the difference in turnover at existing stores (see Burnage case study below) or the difference in footfall of pedestrians visiting various locations on the High Street (see Stalham case study below). To look at changes in turnover, talk to retailers and try to gather as accurate figures as possible. Look at the impact in the few weeks after a store opened. However, if you can get hold of data before the supermarket opened, it is also worth monitoring the changes in the longer term, as it may take months or even years for the full impact to be felt. To look at changes in footfall, find an appropriate place on the High Street and count the number of pedestrians. There may be a previous study that the Council has carried out, as there was in Stalham, which you could use as the basis for your study.

You could try talking to existing retailers in the area, including other large chains, to check on the turnover figures provided by the supermarket. A new supermarket application will have to include an estimate of the current turnover of the stores in the area and the likely impact it will have on that turnover. In some cases, retailers have provided figures of their turnover that are different to those provided with the application. Talking to the retailers in the area may expose inaccuracies.

You can gather local traffic data using local knowledge to spot possible flaws in supermarket submissions. If you know a particular junction is very busy you may question the assumptions of the submission about traffic flows. There may also be doubts about movements in and out of the proposed supermarket's car park - it may be useful to count movements in a similar sized store in a nearby area, to get an idea of how many cars an hour are likely to be going in and out.

The case studies below show some community groups that successfully collected information to challenge developers' submissions:

Burnage retail impact study, Greater Manchester - Manchester Friends of the Earth did four repeated surveys of the impact of a new Tesco supermarket in Burnage. The store opened in September 2005. The group's report, published in summer of 2006, found that there had been a significant problem for other retailers in the area. Three stores had closed down, and other stores reported a major impact, not just in the food retail sector. The report was taken into account by the Planning Inspector who rejected a further Tesco application, in Stretford, in November 2006. To see the report on the impact, which may give you some ideas for conducting your own impact study, and for more information see also the Burnage page and the Stretford page.

Stalham footfall study -Trader Nigel Dowdney knew that traders in Stalham, Norfolk had suffered since Tesco opened in 2002. However, Tesco had claimed that its arrival in Stalham had been positive. In 2006 Nigel Dowdney counted the footfall in Stalham on a given Friday and compared it to figures collected by the Council in 1996. A 'pedestrian flow' check was carried out in the same locations as the Council had done. The results, which were submitted to the Competition Commission, showed that the supermarket's arrival had significantly reduced footfall in Stalham by an average of over 55%. For further information, see the report.

Ickenham - Campaigners at Ickenham Residents Association in challenged traffic impact figures submitted by Tesco for an application at the Master Brewer site in Hillingdon. As a result, Transport for London questioned Tesco's figures at the Public Inquiry in October 2006. Tesco withdrew its application. See the Ickenham Residents Association's website for more information.

It would be very  helpful to other campaigners if information you have collected could be published on the Tescopoly website, so please do contact us.