The Battle for St. Peter’s Street
by Joan Langrick
There is a feud going on over St. Peter’s Street, Maidstone which is reminiscent of the time soldiers charged down Gabriel’s Hill during the civil war. For both have, and are, determining the future character of Maidstone, as this, and other similar skirmishes, strike at the very heart of this historic town.
Today’s conflict is both political and economical as the council debates Planning Application Ref: 13/0297 which requests the Power Hub be replaced by yet another supermarket. Those who are opposing the scheme point out that there are already seven large supermarkets within a mile of this site. Tesco and Lidl are well established in Tovil whilst Sainsburys is a mere bus lane apart from Iceland, in the Mall. There is also Aldi in Wall Road, Waitrose in Allington, yet another Lidl in the Broadway Shopping Centre and, although a mere shadow of the massive Morrisons in Senacre, a minor Morrisons has mushroomed in Week Street.
Grocery stores and corner shops are appalled by the rate at which these massive giants have sucked in so much of their potential trade. Some, have even bowed to the inevitable, and put up their shutters, and then left. Many farmers, although agreeing supermarkets provide a reasonably steady income for their produce, complain their very size has cornered the market, beat down their prices and left them with no where to go. Others, however, have fought back by setting up their own “Farmer’s Markets” and “Fruit and Vegetable” boxes which are regularly delivered to their customer’s homes.
It isn’t only the perceived unfair competition to shops and farmers, the opponents to the proposed plan for a supermarket in St. Peter’s Street, are objecting to. Instead they are appalled at the prospect of another 54% more vehicles joining the frustrated drivers in this already traffic gridlocked area. One extra vehicle every five seconds not only means the possibility of road accidents, added stress and continual noise but also the prospect of hazardous fumes from delivery lorries and customers cars causing serious pollution problems..
However, the majority of today’s dedicated supermarket shoppers appear to remain as completely oblivious to the warnings of pollution and traffic hazards, as they do to the possibility of loosing their corner shop. True, “Handy stores” came in extremely handy, when you needed a car in order to reach your out of town supermarket. Now, however, not only is Maidstone awash with supermarkets, but their on line delivery services are a huge success.
So, it would appear that as long as customers not only pile their trolleys high with “Two for one offers” as well as man the tills and stock the shelves as employees, supermarkets are here to stay. But are they? For now another desperate war is raging and this time it is between supermarket old timers and the new kids on the block who are relentlessly undercutting their prices. So, maybe, just maybe our now neglected little corner shop may end up having the last laugh. What do you think?
Illustration by Jamie Gare