The construction of two new supermarkets in Portswood has left the High Street’s remaining local businesses fearing for their future.
In addition to a 50,000 square feet Sainsbury’s, currently under construction opposite the Mitre Pub, a provisional green light has also been given for a second supermarket on Westridge Road. The chain has not yet been announced.
This will bring the total of supermarkets on or around Portswood Road up to five. The increased competition is likely to have a serious effect on local traders.
Andy Jackson of Longs Greengrocers stated that, “It can’t be a good thing for us. It will certainly have a big knock on effect. Until it actually happens, you can’t make any guarantees as to whether it will be the end or not.”
Ganaways, who have been trading on Portswood Road for over 30 years are also concerned for their future. Over the last decade, Portswood has lost a number of local businesses, including a butchers and a bakers.
They have been replaced by an unusually large array of charity shops, a negative factor for employment and the character of the High Street.
Sainsbury’s told the Wessex Scene that they are confident their store will help local businesses, ‘‘Sainsbury’s investment in Portswood will not only enhance the overall retail offer of the district centre, it will also help keep people shopping locally. Our new store will retain and attract shoppers who currently travel elsewhere for greater main food shopping choice.”
However, this logic is not shared by local business owners who fear the increased competition from a superstore will see their remaining base of customers desert their stores.
In addition to this, there is significant local opposition to the construction of the supermarket. Residents feel the additional traffic will add to the already congested junction of Portswood Road and St Denys Road, right where the supermarket is set to be constructed.
Sainsbury’s initially mitigated some of these concerns by promising to include a much needed medical centre, and affordable housing in their plans.
However after the local Primary Care trust was axed under NHS reforms, the medical centre was scrapped. Instead Sainsbury’s added a further 10,000 square feet to the size of their store.
They also reduced the number of homes they would create from 140 to 59, citing a decreased demand for housing.
This led local MP Alan Whitehead to call for a redesign of the proposals, claiming they were ignoring the needs of local people.
“The Sainsburys proposals are a very substantial deviation from what local residents and planners agreed a number of years ago,” he stated. “There are clearly still issues relating to traffic flow and the impact on local traders that have yet to be fully addressed.”