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					                                                                            40 Tregarth
                                                                           Machynlleth
                                                                     Powys SY20 8HU
                                                                     Tel: 01654 702019
June 18 2009

Dear Sir/Madam,

                          Re: proposed Tesco development

As a resident of Machynlleth and a journalist specialising in issues surrounding
sustainability and climate change, I am deeply concerned by the prospect of a Tesco
supermarket opening in town. I would like to explain why I think it would be a grave
mistake to award planning permission to this development.

It is critical that we look at the global picture when considering our local economy in
Machynlleth. Globally, we live in an age of food and energy insecurity, and we are
facing the growing threat of climate change. Food prices are rising: this is due partly
to climate change causing devastating droughts in grain-exporting countries and partly
because of crops for biofuel replacing edible crops. Climate change means that
valuable low-lying agricultural land world-wide (including in Britain) is threatened by
flooding. Booming population figures and increased consumption of meat means
there is more demand for grain. Furthermore, there is evidence that we are nearing
Peak Oil production which will mean that the oil on which we depend (95% of our
food in the UK is oil-dependent) could soon start to run out. In the meantime, climate
change poses immediate risks to all of us – risks set to increase rapidly over the next
decades - including in Machynlleth, with an increase in the likelihood of severe
flooding from the Dyfi river.

Though many people are unaware of these facts, experts on climate, food and energy
issues perceive this situation as an 'emergency'. I believe the most important action we
can take in the face of such worrying scenarios is to make our community in
Machynlleth as resilient, self-sufficient and sustainable as possible. We must protect
the local food infrastructure that has existed for hundred of years: we are very lucky
to have such an old street market and an independent abattoir and butcher of such
high quality. We must strengthen and expand this infrastructure through Community
Supported Agriculture schemes, encouraging the residents of the area to grow their
own food, and creating food co-operatives that keep decisions about local food in the
hands of local people. If we allow a huge corporation like Tesco to become part of our
economy, it will seriously undermine the infrastructure that has existed for so long
and it will make us very vulnerable in the face of future crises.

It is inevitable that, over time, small locally-owned businesses in Machynlleth will
close as a result of Tesco opening. The market, which is such a crucial part of our
economy, will be severely threatened. Important economic, cultural and social
relationships will be weakened or broken. The Co-op – the least unethical of all the
supermarkets – will be forced to close, as we saw in Porthmadog. Will Lloyd could
take a big knock – most small businesses do not survive competition from
supermarkets, who know exactly how to undercut them as they are strategic and
ruthless in their approach (for example they often sell 'loss leaders' – that is, they
make a loss on some produce to ensure that competitors are killed off.) Tesco might
promise to support some local producers initially, but they have the power to undercut
suppliers and switch farmers whenever they like - we would be very unwise to trust in
long-term business relations with a corporation that will always put profits first.

Tesco has no loyalty to the people of Machynlleth or to any other town. The CEOs of
the corporation are loyal only to their shareholders: they have a fiscal duty to increase
the value of their shares, at the expense of local communities and the environment.
Tesco has very effective Public Relations officers who like to tell us that they care
about local issues and that they want to make life better for people and give us more
'choice'. This is a nonsense. The 'bottom line' is what drives every corporation, and we
would be naïve to believe that Tesco's aim is to see Machynlleth's economy thriving -
or even surviving - in these unstable times.

Tesco has conducted its own study of people's shopping habits and tells us that the
majority of the people of Machynlleth shop for food in Aberystwyth. On the basis of
anecdotal evidence I must question the outcome of this study. Tesco has failed to
show any evidence of the result or to talk about the methodology behind it (local
investigative journalist for The Guardian, George Monbiot, asked for this information
during the 'Public Consultation' but Tesco failed to deliver). Any study that is
undertaken should be done so by the Town Council and should be objective.

Tesco likes to talk about job creation. But a study conducted by the National Retail
Planning Forum shows that when an average supermarket opens, there is a net loss of
276 jobs. The New Economics Foundation has calculated that every £50,000 spent in
small local shops creates one job, and that you must spend £250,000 in superstores for
the same result. Machynlleth and the area cannot afford to lose jobs at this time of
recession: it would be a disaster for our economy. We must also consider the
economy of smaller towns like Dolgellau and Tywyn, whom I believe will be hit very
hard by this development.

I am highly concerned also about issues related to traffic. As far as I know, no Traffic
Impact Assessment has been carried out with regards to this planning application. It is
clear to me, as a resident of Tregarth estate, that a supermarket on Heol y Doll will
create significant traffic issues both on Tanrallt Road and Garth Road (I live between
these two roads) with motorists attempting to avoid traffic jams on Heol Maengwyn.
This will create significant problems in terms of air pollution, noise pollution, and risk
of traffic accidents. I have a three-year-old daughter and am very worried about the
dangers of her walking on Tanrallt Road in particular, which has no pavement. I do
not believe we have the capacity to cope with this extra traffic. Machynlleth is already
teeming during summer months; it will potentially become a very unpleasant place to
live. At the moment is has a reputation for being a unique, laid-back town with plenty
of character: do we want to turn it into a busy, corporate, polluted town like any
other? I believe this development could damage the Machynlleth 'brand' and therefore
our tourism industry, which of course is a fundamental part of our economy.

The fact that the Dyfi Valley has now been awarded the Biosphere status reminds us
what a special place we live in and why people visit the area from all over Britain and
beyond. It also reminds us that we have a duty to protect the environment and to
follow the principles of sustainability in everything that we do. (And we have a
unique reputation in this respect with the presence of the Centre of Alternative
Technology; this is a fantastic opportunity for us to show the rest of the UK of how to
live truly sustainably.) The major new sustainability policy launched by the Welsh
Assembly Government in May 2009 , called One Wales, One Planet, sets out its
scheme for a sustainable Wales, stating that in future:

"Increased localisation means that people are eating more seasonal fresh local
produce… much more food is traded locally where possible… There is a huge
expansion in allotments and community gardening."…

"there will be a much lower food ecological footprint and much lower greenhouse gas
emissions associated with production, processing, distribution and consumption of
food in Wales."

Superstores and the principles of sustainability do not go hand in hand. The wooden
cladding which Tesco plans to put on its 'environmental' store is just a façade. Behind
the cladding Tesco will follow the principles of 'business as usual'. Tesco mainly
supports agri-business rather than small-scale sustainable farming; it centralises food
distribution; it transports food around the country using fossil fuels; its stores are full
of energy-hungry appliances and it uses an obscene amount of plastic packaging.
Furthermore it encourages customers to travel for miles in cars instead of shopping
locally and by foot or bicycle. Through their actions Tesco contributes enormously to
destructive climate change. This is the biggest threat we all face today and is, in
itself, a reason to turn down this planning application.

The debate in The Cambrian News with regard to this development has been
unhelpful. It has attempted to pitch English incomers against local Welsh people and
has created unnecessary divisions. (Some people believe that during Tesco's 'public
consultation' the officers very cynically used this as a tool to create further division.) I
am a Welsh speaker myself and have met plenty of other local Welsh people who are
opposed to the planned development. This issue has nothing to do with ethnicity.

As a town I believe we need to think clearly about how to pull together to create a
truly resilient economy. If Tesco comes to Machynlleth, we might find that one day,
when there are fuel disruptions, or when roads are badly flooded, Tesco's lorries do
not turn up. Or we could find that when Tesco has monopolised the market, it raises
its prices to such an extent that food becomes unaffordable to many people in this
town (supermarkets often charge more for their food in poorer areas where there is
less choice and mobility). How will we then feed ourselves? We will have made
ourselves dependent on a corporation which has no real interest in our wellbeing.

Tesco, in my view, should have no part to play in the future of this town. But I believe
the Town Council should hold a referendum on the matter so that everyone in
Machynlleth can have a voice.

I am sending a copy of this letter to Lembit Öpik MP and Mick Bates AM.

Yr eiddoch yn gywir,

Angharad Penrhyn Jones

				
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