With the possibility of a supermarket opening up in Lenham getting ever closer, here’s a few thoughts on what this means in a wider context.
Back in 2012 the Coop presented its case to Lenham, there must have been a good 200 people present in the village Hall and there was an overwhelming view against the Coop, a few supporting it, but just individuals, in the broad sense the view of Lenham against Coop was unanimous.
But Coop being a big company, and in this sense a bully (verb: use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something.) decided that Lenham would have a supermarket, their supermarket and carried on submitting plans. Why on earth have the meeting at all? Why not simply say “sod you lot, you’re little people, we can do what we want”
The plans so far accepted are for the redevelopment of the old ironmongers with a shop included, flats above and parking spaces for flat owners (leasehold) and a small number for shop customers.
Okay, lets assume Coop goes ahead, its a sad assumption and as with other small towns and villages, this represents the start of the loss of a character that differentiates us from every other medium sized clone village.
First off the challenge to the existing shops, I can see the big change being availability and active promotion of cheap booze, our current store doesn’t, this new one, as with all the other coops, southern or otherwise, will. A proportion of the window space will be booze.
Take this a step further, if you are under 18 in the middle of Lenham, getting booze means being a lot more devious than simply pretending you are over 18, we have a shop owner who is a responsible member of the community, often on the counter and I would say accountable when not.
The Coop will have a single salaried employee and 17 part timers, my guess is zero hours contracts, hours set to avoid coop having too many staff responsibilities and certainly a target of most being minimum wage. My guess is it will be a bit easier to get cheaper booze when maybe one shouldn’t. Maybe I’m wrong, but I do wonder where the kids do get their drink.
Whatever, drinking will most likely go up, my guess is that its not just the local shops that will be challenged but also the two pubs.
So, 1 full time and 17 part time, certainly no careers there and each part timer will have to rely on some kind of state support, especially if on a zero hours contract.
Looking at the newsagent, I recognise him and I guess family and staff, I’m happy to shop there for my Times and Mail, I don’t take advantage of the deliver service, but this shop clearly offers a very important amenity in providing that service. I have no doubt the Coop will not compete here, but then they will certainly sell newspapers. Once entrenched it will be only too easy to pick up a newspaper with the groceries, if that happens too much will we see the demise of the dedicated newsagent?
No Newsagent, thus no more deliveries, no more part time jobs for the kids and a bit less money circulating in the village and no experience for subsequent generations of kids of work. Go on from here and nobody to notice that Mrs Smith / Jones whoever hasn’t taken the newspaper from the letterbox, nor a point of communication for those who go to the newsagent. A nail in the coffin of our community.
A store like the coop relies on convenience, its easy to shop there, simply drive up, park, nip in, purchase and gone. Might as well do it on-line. But where to park? Certainly not in front, those 5 spaces will soon be filled up and I guess most likely by staff? But no, they are for customers, so staff will park in the square or behind the Red Lion. So will the customers? Well actually I struggle to find a parking space myself, but its not a big deal. But Coop need footfall, can’t have customers put off by people unable to park, so our fairly informal approach to parking in Lenham will be the new problem that I am sure will be solved by the Coop!
Watch this space, regular visits by the parking wardens to enforce any waiting limits and what about making the square a pay parking area. after all, the money raised can be spent on the community.
Prices won’t be cheaper. Certainly not when buying ingredients. Try buying a tray of eggs and the equivalent of a bag of spuds from the Coop at the same price you can pay at the butchers. Ready meals though, the bane of modern society, chock full of salt and sugar, now that’s what the coop will major in. Okay, people are free to buy what they like, but isn’t there something fundamentally wrong in replacing or risking the livelihood of stores where the push is towards a basic healthy diet with a convenient approach to purchasing mass produced pap?
Do I want a local coop? No. Lenham isn’t perfect, but it has its own character this will only detract from it. Will the Coop make Lenham a better community? Of course it won’t. It is an organisation that has no regard for Lenham beyond what money it can make from us – that’s the nature of big business, it is undeniable.
Anyway, what happened to Call me Dave’s Localism?