Challenge for planners as supermarkets eye up South Lakes

The Westmorland Gazette: An artists’ impression of the proposed Sainsbury's store at Kendal An artists’ impression of the proposed Sainsbury's store at Kendal

South Lakeland is becoming a battleground as superstores vie to set up in the area.

The last time we witnessed such activity was back in the late 1980s and early 1990s - at the start of the relentless rise of out-of-town superstores - when there were several planning battles as, first, Asda and then Morrisons sought to establish big stores in Kendal.

Before then the town had Booths at its old site on Highgate; Gateway where Marks and Spencer now sits; and a small Tesco store now occupied by Iceland.

The town also had a lot more independent butchers and grocers than it has now.

Asda and Morrisons quickly became popular but Kendal town centre has remained healthy, albeit with fewer food stores.

Now Sainsbury’s wants to build stores in both Kendal and Ambleside - and both schemes are proving controversial.

At Ambleside much of the opposition is around the possible effect on small, existing shops.

But this argument rarely seems to carry much weight when the superstore big boys eye up a new location - witness the arrival, despite opposition from some local traders - of Booths at Kirkby Lonsdale and Milnthorpe.

At Kendal it is unlikely Sainsbury’s would have much more of an impact on smaller shops than the existing supermarkets already exert.

Some say Kendal does not need another supermarket - but Sainsbury’s says the spend exists to support another big store and it will have surely done it homework to justify its potential investment.

Supermarkets are clearly here to stay - they are popular with customers and it is up to local people to continue to support the independents if they want them to survive.

What really matters in terms of granting planning permission is whether new stores fit into the environment, whether the extra traffic they generate can be properly managed and if there are any flooding issues.

Those are the factors councillors will need to satisfy themselves about when considering the latest applications.

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