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Association of North Thames Amenity Societies

 

 

Newsletter Spring 2000

 

 

 

The Guildhall in High Wycombe

 

Inside this Issue:

Environmental Impact of Supermarket Competition

From the Acting Chairman

High Wycombe Society - In the Beginning

Railtrack and Planning Permission

Shopping – an Optimistic Prediction

Twice Born College of Colonel Le Marchant

Wendover Arm Canal

West of Stevenage - the Campaign Continues

 

 

 


The Association of North Thames Amenity Societies


President:  Jennifer Moss, J.P.

Chairman

Ian Morgan, D.L.

Vice Chairman

John Davies

Hon Secretary

Anthony Wethered*

Hon Treasurer

Ronald Sims


*Correspondence to:  Remnantz, West Street, Marlow, Bucks, SL7 2BS

 

ANTAS Newsletter Produced, Published and

Edited by                          Merrin Molesworth

Telephone:                       01494 773381

Email:                                merrin@lineone.net

Printer:                              Oakdale Colour Copy Bureau 
3 Edmonds Shopping Parade  
Edmonds Road   Lane End  
High Wycombe   Bucks   HP14 3EJ

 
Member Societies

Amersham Society

Hitchin Society

Aylesbury Society

Hoddesdon Society

Beaconsfield Society

Marlow Society

Buckingham Society

Potters Bar Society

Chesham Society

Radlett Society

Hertford Society

St Albans Society

High Wycombe Society

Stony Stratford Community Association

Hitcham & Taplow Preservation Society

Wendover Society

Reciprocal Membership

Chiltern Society

London Forum

 

 

Registered with the Civic Trust

 

 


From the Acting Chairman

Ian Morgan

Having effectively said my farewells in the last Newsletter, I fear that readers of this one will have to put up with another preamble from me. Because of an increasing workload from a variety of sources, John Davies regretfully was forced to withdraw from the race for the Chair, although he has continued, thank goodness, as Vice-Chairman; as there was no other runner at the time it was agreed at the last AGM that I should continue to occupy that post on an "acting" basis until the next AGM. The search for a successor is still very much on, as I will, quite definitely, not be able to continue after the next AGM, but for anyone reading this plea, who feels prepared to take up the challenge and who contacts Anthony Wethered or me, there would be a very warm welcome.

Whilst on the subject of “officer” appointments, may I raise again the call for volunteers, particularly for a successor to Anthony as Secretary.  We really do need some new blood to help steer this Association through the next few years of its life - there are many threatening problems in being or projected and the more local amenity societies, such as our constituent members, get together to present a united front the better.

Text Box: get together to present a united frontThinking back over the five or so years since ANTAS was formed, we have supported Hitchin, Buckingham, Aylesbury, Hitcham and Taplow, Chesham and Marlow Societies in their objections to a range of issues, from those with far reaching implications such as the 10,000 houses west of Stevenage, through the proposal to operate microlight aircraft near Aylesbury to the more parochial (literally) question of the Church loo at Chesham, with its effect on an historic and much loved building. There have been some successes but, whatever the result, we have done our best to add weight to the efforts of the local society - and that really brings me to my final point.

ANTAS must necessarily rely upon its member societies for information about any local problem which the local Society feels may have wider significance - so, please keep us in the picture about what is going on in your area. Cross-circulation of Newsletters is a very good starting point for a bush telegraph, and some societies do this already - though they would much appreciate reciprocity from those that don't!

West of Stevenage - the campaign continues

John Davies, Hitchin

The plans for a massive house building scheme on the green belt west of Stevenage are still being progressed with vigour and determination.  Also known as “West of the A1(M)”, it became the grossly misleading “Garden City 21” before achieving its new name of “Stevenage West”.  The developers may well feel this lacks a certain appeal, not least to London commuters looking for “executive” homes marketed under the guise of “country living”.

However, the scheme does seem to have an unstoppable momentum all of its own.  Once Hertfordshire's new County Structure Plan was adopted in 1998, including the development west of Stevenage, it achieved a legal status now immensely difficult to change.  And that provides for 10,000 houses to be built in two phases of 5,000 each, for the green belt boundary to be rolled back for the full 10,000 houses, and for a development Master Plan to be drawn up.  Since then, although there has been a change in political control in both the County Council and in North Herts District Council, the planning process grinds on relentlessly.

The new administration in County Hall received legal advice that they can in principle change the Structure Plan at any time.  But they would face legal challenge from the developers if they did not follow the full procedure, and even then they would only succeed if they could present compelling new evidence that a strategic housing provision was no longer needed in Hertfordshire.  Clearly there is no short-term way in which the County Council can reverse the flawed decision to promote this environmentally damaging scheme.

Almshoebury Farmhouse (Grade I listed), will be surrounded by the development, Jean Watts sketch

So, the next stage is for the County Structure Plan to be incorporated in new Local Plans for Stevenage and for North Hertfordshire - the boundary between the two authorities runs through the target area.

In the case of Stevenage Borough Council, the scheme is being adopted with enthusiasm; it was their idea in the first place.  They lost no time in publishing their draft Local Plan "on deposit" for public consultation, providing for 1,000 houses to be built on the relatively small area of land close to the motorway that happens to be within the boundaries of Stevenage.  In the consultation period which ended in January, objections were lodged by many organisations including CASE (Campaign Against Stevenage Expansion) and the Hitchin Society.  These objections showed how environmentally damaging the new development would be, arguing that no building should take place west of the A1(M), as well as objecting to specific aspects of the development itself.  The next step will be a Public Inquiry, probably towards the end of this year, when the detailed objections will be presented.

The position in North Hertfordshire is more complex.  The new administration was pledged to oppose the scheme, and indeed many new councillors were elected on this basis.  However, faced with the reality of a legal obligation to incorporate the principles of the County Structure Plan in their new Local Plan, they are now co-operating fully with the County Council and Stevenage Borough Council in drawing up plans for the development.  Legal advice is that the most they can do is to limit the roll-back of the green belt to provide for the first phase of 5,000 houses, of which it is recognised that only 3,600 can be built during the current planning period ending in 2011.

This compromise position is proposed in the recently published draft Local Plan for North Herts.  The green belt boundary will be pushed back for an eventual 5,000 houses, with the land for the balance above 3,600 houses to be an area of ‘special restraint’ not to be released for building unless required by a new Structure Plan.  While local councillors probably feel they have been as daring as they can be, this will probably please nobody.

The developers will certainly object vigorously at the prospect of losing half their £1,000 million (or more) scheme, while environmental groups see any development west of the motorway as the thin end of a wedge - once the expensive motorway crossings are put in, the pressure will be on for building to continue to 10,000 houses and perhaps even beyond.

This puts responsible campaign groups in a dilemma - should they support the council for their bravery in defying the full rigour of the County Structure Plan, or should they object to the release of any green belt land for speculative building?  Or should they argue that the green belt should be moved for 3,600 houses, meeting all the needs specified in the current plan and causing relatively little damage to the landscape?

Text Box:  
Reputed to be Hertfordshire's oldest inhabited building, Dyes Farm (Grade II*) in the Langley Valley will be reached by the second phase.  Sketch by Jean Watts.

Responses to the North Herts draft Local plan were submitted by the end of March closure date by CASE, the Hitchin Society and a wide range of other groups.  These included objections to the whole concept of building on green belt land as well as to specific provisions in the plans for west of Stevenage.  Next year's Public Inquiry should be a lively affair.

Meanwhile all three councils involved in promoting the scheme are collaborating in the development of Master Planning Principles.  Consultation is taking the form of a public relations exercise, with a questionnaire asking whether you agree or disagree with ideas such as:

·          Reducing the need to travel

·          Achieving good design

·          Protecting the wider environment

·          Ensuring efficient use of resources

If you agree with any of these, you may well be quoted as supporting the development!

And now it is reported that the developers are about to lodge outline planning applications for building west of Stevenage!  If correct, this would be an attempt to short circuit the whole process of developing Local Plans and for these to be tested at Public Inquiries.  It can only be hoped that both Stevenage Borough Council and North Herts District Council will adopt a robust approach to such premature pressure.  But it is difficult to be totally confident.

 

High Wycombe Society - In the Beginning

Frances Presland, The High Wycombe Society

The High Wycombe Society can trace its origins to the work of a very remarkable man, John (known as Jack) Scruton. Here follows an account of how Jack inspired the people of High Wycombe to help him defeat a plan which would have blighted a unique area of meadow land in the heart of High Wycombe - The Rye. In this time of ‘planning standards’ producing Standard Towns, this story gives us a sense of hope of what can be done when people are determined to fight decisions that will inflict irreparable damage on our environment and our heritage.

Events began in 1952, with a Public Inquiry at Slough concerning the Development Plan for the County of Buckinghamshire that was approved two years later. A Supplementary High Wycombe Town Map was published in 1961, and after a Public Inquiry it was approved. This map showed details of an inner relief road, part of which would cross the Rye.

To fight this proposal, Jack Scruton formed the Rye Protection Society. The Society's first initiative was to make a petition, calling on the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of High Wycombe to refrain from constructing the road, signed by 11,068 people. The legal battle began in 1964, with a Statement of Case to the Minister, but after a Public Inquiry the Minister confirmed the Appropriation Order for the 1.65 acres of the Rye needed to build the road.

The Order was laid before Parliament for approval in 1965, and the Society petitioned Parliament, objecting to the Order. The Joint Committee heard the Parties and witnesses who were recalled on 11 June 1965 to hear the Chairman announce that the Appropriation Order would not be approved. No such petition of objection to the construction of a dual carriageway across part of a public open space had ever succeeded before.

The success stemmed largely from the team spirit of the Society and the dogged persistence of its leader, Jack Scruton. His farsightedness is evident in part of his speech when he addressed the Parliamentary Committee: “Providing for increasing numbers of people, to give them rest and an escape from all the stresses of today and tomorrow is far more important than worrying about the increasing number of motor vehicles. By using our common sense and refusing to be thrown into a panic we can solve the problem of traffic, but there will still be no solution to the need to provide healthy recreation if we sacrifice or put a blight on our open spaces... It is not a fuss about nothing. This road is a terrible threat and inhuman plan and shows total disregard for the wellbeing and feelings of the people…”

Whilst Jack was secretary of the Rye Protection Society, Christopher Hill started the Chiltern Society in May 1966 and became its secretary. The Chiltern Society was soon dealing with large numbers of complaints about bad planning decisions from all over the Chilterns, but more than half of them came from High Wycombe. The need for the town to have its own Society was obvious, and so under Jack's guidance, the Rye Protection Society extended its mandate to the whole town and became the High Wycombe Society, which strives to continue his work today. Besides the 'Friends of the Rye' Group, there are now groups for Planning, Transport, Heritage, Membership & Publicity, and the restoration of Pann Mill (on the River Wye next to the Rye).

The Wendover Arm

Peter Cleasby, the Wendover Arm Trust

Of the 6¾ mile-length of Grand Union Canal’s Wendover Arm between Bulbourne near Tring, Herts, and Wendover, Bucks, only the first 1¼ miles to Tringford Pumping Station is navigable.  With the support of British Waterways, the Wendover Arm Trust aims to reopen the rest.

Restoration work by the Trust started in May 1997.  The current project, known as Phase 1, is to extend the present limit of navigation by some 350 metres westwards.  This may not sound much, but it involves the rebuilding of Little Tring road bridge and the excavation and reconstruction of the canal bed itself.  A winding hole will be available to the west of the bridge.  The work has been planned in stages.  Current estimates put the cost of Phase 1 at nearly £400,000. A winding hole will be available to the west of the bridge. 

Work at present involves excavating the canal bed and constructing 220m of towpath wall out of a total Phase 1 requirement of 600m.  To protect newly excavated surfaces from the weather, a layer of blinding concrete is laid as soon as the canal bed has been excavated to the correct depth.. 

Work is carried out by volunteer working parties, with major equipment hired as necessary.  Trust volunteers are also clearing scrub and removing stumps from the dry section of canal bed west of Phase 1.  This involves continued strimming, though this is suspended between May and August to avoid disturbing wildlife during the nesting season.

Further phases of restoration will be carried out as the necessary funds become available.  The Trust’s principal source of funds is the annual canal festival held on the Arm at New Mill, Tring.  As usual, the 2000 festival will be held on the Sunday and Monday of the late May bank holiday.  A range of craft stalls and musical events, as well as canal-related exhibits, make it well worth a visit. 

The Trust welcomes new members and volunteers.  Anyone interested in knowing more is invited to contact the Membership Secretary at 12 Chipperfield Close, New Bradwell, Milton Keynes, MK13 0EP.

The Twice Born College of Colonel Le Marchant

Anthony Wethered

There are two market towns in South Bucks, each calling itself the birthplace of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.  Neither, it seems, is aware of the other's claim, or is at any rate inclined to take it seriously.

For some years now, Marlow has had its own commemorative plaque, courtesy of Wycombe District Council. It is set into the wall outside the house in West Street known as Remnantz (after a former owner, Stephen Remnant), and informs passers-by that this was “the home of the Royal Military College, 1802-1812.”

Then, last year, the Council took cognisance of the fact that 1999 was the bicentenary of an even older establishment in High Wycombe. Now, above a pair of shops in Wycombe's High Street, there is a plaque telling visitors that this was the site of the old Antelope Inn, where “the Royal Military College was founded in 1799”.  Certainly each statement is accurate, as far as it goes, but taken together there could be confusion.  Did the College move from Wycombe to Marlow in 1802, or what?  The man responsible for bringing the military both to Wycombe and to Marlow was John Gaspard Le Marchant, a Channel Islander from Guernsey.  A brilliant soldier as well as an able administrator, he conceived the idea of a two-tier academy, with a senior department teaching advanced courses to budding Staff officers, and a junior one offering a general education to boys from as young as thirteen, while training them in their turn to become army officers

A Royal Warrant was issued on 24th June 1801, which is the official birthday of the Staff College. General Sir William (later Lord) Harcourt was appointed as its overall Governor with Colonel Le Marehant as his deputy or Lieutenant-Governor. Meanwhile, Le Marchant's classes “for the improvement of the Staff” had already opened in High Wycombe. The intake that first year was twenty-six students, a number that was to remain more or less constant during that time. Under the direction of the elderly French émigré, General Francois Jarry, they studied fortification, castramentation (the choice, construction and protection of camps), the calibre and range of guns, and other branches of military science as well as French and German. 

With Britain almost continuously at war from 1792 to 1815, there was plenty of opportunity for graduating officers to make their mark on the battlefield, and a number did.  Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George Murray was Wellington's ‘invaluable’*[1] quartermaster-general during the Peninsular campaign. He was succeeded in the post by Major Sir William de Lancey, who was to lose his life at Waterloo. Both had attended Jarry’s lectures, as had Sir William Gomm who fought in Spain and at Waterloo on his way to becoming a field-marshal and commander-in-chief in India. 

For all that, the Iron Duke had little time for educational schemes for officers: “By God!” he growled on one occasion, “if there is a mutiny in the army - and in all probability we shall have one - you'll see that these new- fangled schoolmasters will be at the bottom of it”. 

With an average age of about twenty, the officers at Wycombe were capable of reckless boisterousness. They tried the patience of their teachers, old Jarry in particular, and drew angry protests from residents of the town. 

The story is told of a Quaker farmer who was quietly fishing in the Wye when two young officers in a boat offered to row him across the river.  He accepted gladly, but once in midstream found himself being pitched into the water amid shouts of laughter from the two officers.  When Le Marchant heard the poor man's story he promised to deal severely with the offenders.  But the farmer wouldn't hear of anything so vindictive. His Quaker faith would not allow it.  “Then why on earth did you come to me,” Le Marchant asked him.  “Only,” replied the peace-loving man, “that you should desire them never to treat me in the same way again”. 

Discipline improved with the appointment of Lieutenant Howard Douglas (later General Sir Howard Douglas, Bart) of the Royal Artillery as superintendent of the senior department.  Clearly a man of extraordinary stamina, he was chiefly renowned at that time for having skated down the St Lawrence from Montreal to Quebec, a distance of 180 miles, in order to attend a ball.

* * * * *

In Marlow the story was very different.  On 17th May 1802, eleven months after the issuance of the Royal Warrant, the first batch of sixteen ‘gentlemen cadets’ arrived at Remnantz.  They were the advance guard of a student body whose numbers would eventually rise to four hundred, requiring extra houses in the town to accommodate them.  Marlow in effect became a garrison town, its streets brightened with the scarlet uniforms of the cadets and their officers. 

The boys followed a rigorous daily schedule starting with a parade at 6 a.m. and ending with prayers and ‘the Retreat’ at 9 p.m. Beside their military studies they received a well-rounded general education that included “frequent lectures . . . on Natural and Moral Philosophy,” as well as Religion and the Classics. From what we know of the civilian schoolmasters the standard of teaching was probably high.

Le Marchant spent most of his time in Wycombe but would ride over to Marlow twice a week to make an inspection of the junior department.  The commandant of the department was Colonel William Butler, a proud, self-important man who resented the authority of the younger lieutenant-governor, while Le Marchant for his part blamed Butler for the frequent cases of indiscipline among the cadets. 

Things came to a head following an attempted mutiny.  Ten disgruntled cadets had planned to set fire to a haystack and, in the resulting confusion, seize muskets from an unguarded armoury.  They would then demand conditions from officers held at gunpoint.  However, it seems that one of their number turned informer, and the conspirators were expelled after having their swords broken over their heads.  At a subsequent enquiry before a panel of three generals, Le Marchant's case against Butler was upheld and discipline improved as a result. 

Like Wycombe, Marlow, had its young heroes, though fewer perhaps on account of the cadets’ ages and the approaching end of hostilities. Edward Charles Cocks was the son of a peer who was lord lieutenant of Herefordshire.  He died in the attempt to storm the castle at Burgos in October 1812. Wellington said of him, “If Cocks had lived, which was a moral impossibility since he exposed himself too much to risks, he would have been one of the greatest generals we ever had”.  It was Le Marchant's fate, too, to be killed in the very year that his College moved to its permanent home in Surrey.  Promoted to the rank of major-general, he had been sent to join Wellington in the Peninsula.  The thunderous charge of his Heavy Dragoons had scattered the French infantry at Salamanca on July 22nd, and he was in the act of regrouping his forces when a musket ball took him in the spine, killing him instantly.  His memorial is Sandhurst and its two hundred years of service to the British army. 

In 1857 the senior department, the seeds of which had been sown in High Wycombe, was officially renamed the Staff College.  And in 1946 the RMC became the Royal Military Academy following the closure of the RMA, Woolwich.

Railtrack and Planning Permission

John Davies,  Hitchin

In Hitchin, we have always considered the railway station to be one of the more significant buildings in the town.  Not only is it important as a gateway to Hitchin, but it also provides a tangible link with an important period in the social and economic development of the town from 1850 onwards, when Hitchin became a major railway junction.

The station building itself has survived against all the odds as an example of the architecture of the Great Northern Railway, when virtually all other stations on the main line north from King's Cross have been demolished, rebuilt, or in some cases reduced to little more than bus shelters.  The station was indeed partly modernised in 1912, but since than very little change has occurred except for the deplorable demolition of a fine external canopy over the station entrance.

Recognising the need to achieve some measure of protection, the Hitchin Society recently proposed that the station should be included in a register of locally listed buildings being compiled by the District Council.  This proposal was accepted, and we felt that the station was now safe from major redevelopment or worse.  However, this was an illusion!

The fact that local listing provides no protection only emerged gradually during the implementation of Hitchin's transportation plan (see ANTAS Newsletter of Spring 1996).  A key feature of the plan was the need to create a bus/rail interchange as a local contribution to limiting the growth in car usage - up until now buses could not turn in the station forecourt and could only wait briefly on the nearby main road.  This scheme had the full support of the Hitchin Society, with our only misgivings being the loss of two fine chestnut trees, probably over a hundred years old, and a feature of the forecourt.  In the interests of integrated transport, we did not object formally.  However, we did challenge the District Council about planning consent, and we were simply told it was "not needed".  We naively thought that if the changes were just limited to rearranging the forecourt layout, then perhaps that was right, and took it no further.

However, quite beyond the scope of Hitchin's Transportation Plan, Railtrack then announced that the station itself was to be included in their regeneration programme, to be implemented at the same time as the forecourt changes and at a total cost of around £1 million.  While welcoming the idea of a refurbished station, we became increasingly concerned about the scope of the work and the changes that might be involved.  Various approaches to the local authority to ensure that the station was protected as a locally listed building drew uncertain or non-committal answers.  Eventually the truth dawned on us that the local authority had no control whatsoever over what was going to be done.

Now of course we realise that any changes on Railtrack property are classified as "permitted development", not requiring planning permission and over which the council has no control.  This is apparently due to the status awarded to Railtrack as a "statutory undertaking", and under these circumstances the local authority can do no more than persuade or cajole; it is only Railtrack's nationally listed buildings that are protected by the need for planning consent.

We now know we should have gone straight to Railtrack the moment the project was first mooted, and would recommend this course of action to any civic society faced with a similar problem of "permitted development" on railway property.  Certainly, societies should be aware that the normal processes of planning control do not apply.  While asking the local authority to use its influence with Railtrack could well be helpful, objecting to a planning application is not an option for resisting inappropriate development.

While we believe that the refurbishment of Hitchin Station will be a welcome improvement, we can do no more than hope that the architectural heritage of the station, including the parts remaining from the original station of 1850, will be sufficiently respected in the work now taking place.

Environmental Impact of Supermarket Competition

John Gore,  High Wycombe Society

It was probably the takeover of ASDA by the giant American superstore, Walmart, in the summer of 1999, and the fear that the Government might be considering relaxing the planning regime for new superstores, in order to increase competition and reduce prices, that led the House of Commons Environment, Tansport and Regional Affairs (ETR) Committee to conduce an inquiry into the environmental impact of supermarket competition.

The High Wycombe Society was among some 30 organisations nationally, including the Civic Trust, to respond to an invitation to submit evidence to the Committee.  We drew attention to the huge amount of traffic generated by shoppers visiting out-of-town superstores by car (millions of miles per year per superstore), which in turn adds to green house and pollutant gases in the atmosphere at a time when Britain is committed to reducing these emissions.  We concluded that it would be irresponsible to relax the current planning restrictions on out-of-town superstores, and advocated the encouragement of town centre stores backed by delivery services.  We also floated the idea of appointing a Superstore Regulator, who would ensure that competing superstores all adhered to the same environmental standards.

In its report, the Committee noted that out-of-town supermarkets have had serious and undesirable effects on town centres and village shops, and had encouraged increased traffic congestion.  They had rarely seen such overwhelming support for a Government policy as that laid down in current planning policy guidance (PPG6) on “Town Centres and Retail Developments”.  This advocates the ‘sequential approach’ in selecting superstore sites.  In essence, this means that out-of-town sites should only be developed if there are no suitable sites in or on the edge of town centres.  The Committee wants local authorities to use compulsory purchase powers if necessary, to create sites in town centres rather than permit out-of-town development, and to insist on much better architectural design than has been evident hitherto.  The Committee firmly believes that any relaxation of the planning regime in the interests of increasing competition would be disastrous, whilst doing little to encourage new entrants.

The Committee expressed its concern that in the summer of 1999 the Office of Fair Trading had referred the question of supermarket prices to the Competition Commission with the suggestion that planning restrictions and land costs might tend to raise prices.  They feared that the Commission might recommend relaxation of planning restrictions on out-of-town sites.  However in their recently published interim report, the Commission generally gave the supermarkets a clean bill of health, dispelling the ‘rip-off Britain’ theory, but suggested that they might call for enforced sales of stores and landholdings in some areas to counter dominance of a single brand in those areas.  The commission’s investigation is continuing.

Meanwhile much to the satisfaction of the ETR Committee, the Minister for Planning has given assurances that the DETR will not change its policy whatever the Competition Commission’s ultimate findings.

We hope the Government will continue to hold this viewpoint and not be tempted to relax the present effective planning policy.

Shopping – an Optimistic Prediction

Merrin Molesworth

Picture the empty shop/s in your area being reopened and the high street humming with shoppers.  This is not a pipe-dream but a very real probability as the internet revolutionizes our shopping methods.  Who wants to lift, lug, unload and reload cans of pet food, bulky breakfast cereal, containers of mineral water and heavy washing power, not to mention voluminous loo rolls?  And that is just inside the store, it all has to be done again at the car boot and at home.  Well we don’t have to.  We can order our groceries from the supermarket via the internet and have them delivered at a time convenient to us, and the frozen food kept frozen even in the increasingly hot summers.

This will then allow us the luxury of shopping for the things we like to choose, dawdling over the fruit and vegetables and tasting the cheese.  It will be a pleasure to select produce which demands picking and choosing. This will in turn mean that enterprising shopowners will again be required to display their wares to us in street shops.  Specialist produce from farmers markets will benefit from increased awareness.

Who will want to roam miles of isles at cavernous supermarkets just to select the desirables?  Retailers specializing in particular products will latch onto this and take over smaller premises and the enterprising will subscribe to a joint delivery service for heavy items.  As well as that we don’t have to be restricted to the one grocery shop anyway.  We can connect with specialists in whatever produce we seek at the click of a mouse (well with the judicious use of a search engine).

If technology allows us to purchase on-line, similarly it will allow retailers to despatch goods electronically.  Bulky products can go straight from the factory to the consumer.  An intermediate step – the shop – can be dispensed with.  Spacious supermarkets will not be required!  Ergo out of town supermarkets will not be viable!  If not viable Tesco’s and the like will not build them!

In the US there is now a decided trend towards ‘Strip Shopping’ where people wander on foot between small stores which sell specialized items.  How revolutionary is that?

The out of town supermarket will become obsolete.  But will local authorities then be tempted or bribed by developers, to sell them off for housing rather than obliging the supermarkets to reinstate the land to green field status?   Probably but that is can of worms for the next decade.  Let’s just rejoice in the prospect of a revitalization of the town centre in the immediate future and let us all get on line and speed up the transition.

The whole concept is a return to the ‘good’ old days with the added bonus of less labour, wider availability of produce and better hygiene.

 

 

Regional & ANTAS Meeting
Saturday 15th April 2000

 

A meeting of the civic/amenity societies in the North Thames Region will be held at the Friends Meeting House in High Wycombe at 9:30am for coffee before a 10:00am start.

 

Mike Gwilliam of the Civic Trust will be speaking

 



[1] *Elizabeth Longford, Wellington: The Years of the Sword.