A large retail development is ‘necessary’ for Louth to thrive, despite danger of it killing off smaller food stores, according to a new report.
The assessment, commissioned by East Lindsey District Council and carried out by planning experts Nathaniel Lichfield, has uncovered some stark findings about what the future could hold for Louth.
It found that Louth’s existing food retailers were trading well above the national average, and could therefore take the hit of a new supermarket in the town.
As well as looking at the impact of a large store on local trade, the report also identified sites which could sustain such a build, namely the Cattle Market, which has long been the subject of speculation over interest from supermarkets.
The £25,000 study of Louth, Horncastle and Alford was commissioned in light of ‘significant interest’ in the towns from supermarket chains and will act as evidence to feed back into ELDC’s planning policy.
The report said its findings suggested ‘potential for a large food store’ and that retail development ‘will be necessary’ to maintain Louth’s share of local spending on food, 28 per cent of which is being lost to nearby towns and cities.
According to figures, a large supermarket could result in ‘two to three shop closures’ as well as a ‘significant reduction in trade’ for the Morrisons and Co-operative stores, but there is ‘no evidence’ the two would be forced to close.
ELDC’s economic regeneration portfolio holder, Coun Craig Leyland, explained: “This independent study, request by Coun Daniel Simpson (Ludford ward), was carried out by Nathaniel Lichfield.
“The findings of the study, which has now been reported back to us, will be used to form part of the evidence base that supports the Core Strategy, which sets out the planning policies for East Lindsey.”
Cattle Market is ‘best prospect’ for a new food store
Louth Cattle Market has ‘the best prospects for providing a wholly new food store’ due to its size and location, according to the retail report.
The report found the Newmarket site, an ‘edge of town centre’ location, was close enough to provide linked trips to smaller retailers.
As well as pinpointing the Cattle Market, the study found the Morrisons store in Eastgate capable of expansion as an alternative, when combined with a smaller retailer building on the Queen Street car park.
It said Morrisons’ expansion, a project the Leader understands is being explored, would ‘significantly improve’ main and bulky food shopping.
“There appears to be two main development options, a new food store of around 2,000 square metres on the Cattle Market site, or an enlarged Morrisons store with a smaller store at Queen Street Car Park.”
The Kiln Lane ELDC car park and Co-operative site was ruled out for expansion due to lack of access and space.
The report said a major retailer building a supermarket in Louth would cause a reduction in trade of 8.9 per cent, which ‘could result in some shop closures’ having ‘knock on effects to Louth Town Centre’.
The projected income deficit to small convenience shops in Louth could close ‘two to three’ businesses.
However the report claimed that most businesses in Louth could absorb such a deficit, owning to the fact that on average convenience stores in the town were trading 39.6 per cent above the national average.
Neighbouring Horncastle could not sustain another supermarket according to the study, as town centre convenience trade was on average 21 per cent below benchmark.
The report also included a survey of 500 shoppers and 100 businesses. The results of which showed that 34 per cent of those questioned in Louth wanted a new store with a majority 50 per cent saying they did not want a new store. 11 per cent said it depended on its size and who the operator was.
Population growth for the three towns up to 2028 is 9.3 per cent, and added to expansion of shopping facilities in neighbouring districts, proved it ‘necessary’ for retailers to develop to at least maintain the existing market share.
Peter Wilks, director of Nathaniel Lichfield, said: “By locating a new store close to the town centre, spin-off trade for businesses would be created.
“The sites identified are capable of sustaining a large store and national policy gives preference to town centre and edge of centre developments.
“The report gives options for the district council to look at when debating future planning applications.”
Nick Louth, from Keep Louth Special, said: “I was very unimpressed by the study.
“For £25,000 I spotted they had spelled Louth as ‘Lough’ more than once!
“A huge supermarket would be exactly the wrong path for a town of this distinctiveness.
“A nine to 10 per cent fall in income to a lot of small shops could signal the end for them, the study was hurried, ill-researched and slipshod.”
ELDC’s planning policy advisor Anne Shorland, said: “This is a piece of evidence to feed into our Core Strategy, with a view to implementing any changes by the end of next year.”
What do you make of the report? Do you agree with the findings? Email your views to email@example.com, tweet us or use the comment from below to join the debate.
Watch a video interview with Peter Wilks, director of Nathaniel Lichfield, by clicking here.