Next is off. Meh.

So Next, TK Maxx and H&M are planning to move out of the city centre and onto the ESG shopping complex. As you would expect, a lot of hot internet air is flying over this (and probably even some real life hot air too! Oudafortit!). But does it really even matter?

The shop floor staff will most likely keep their jobs and in fact, if bigger sites are secured, more jobs will be created—a bonus for working class people then. At the very least shop employees will be largely unaffected by the possible moves.

As for the claims that High Town will become a ‘ghost town’ if more shops are allowed to move out … well, we’re sure something will fill their gaps. It is likely that with the lack of demand for city centre premises rents will be dropped and become affordable for local businesses to operate in once again.

It seems that some sections of the local population (maybe once including us) moan that the city centre has become a ‘clone town’ taken over by chain stores but then moan again when those same businesses decide to fuck off.

So which one do we want, a High Town affordable to local businesses or one where only multinationals can afford to operate?

Or maybe that’s something for middle class businessmen and women to worry about, because news like this doesn’t really affect the little people like us does it.

An open letter to Herefordshire Council leader, Cllr John Jarvis

We the undersigned wish to point out that Britain is now in the midst of the worst double-dip recession for 50 years.

Economic forecasts – whether predicting changes in the UK, Europe or the whole world – are universally bleak.
British householders (especially pensioners) have never had to endure such straightened conditions in peacetime.

There are now more than 200 charity food banks in the UK, with new ones opening at the rate of one a week.
The construction industry and its cousin the commercial property development sector are in the doldrums, with a virtual nationwide freeze on major city centre retail developments.

Yet Herefordshire Council, alone, plans to initiate its much-vaunted £80 million Edgar Street Grid shopping development on the empty site of the old livestock market, designed by Stanhope plc and funded by British Land.

Press reports and cabinet and council meetings over the last six months have recorded innumerable contractual changes which these developers have wrung from your council, from alterations to site boundaries to long-term purchasing options. It has been a one-way traffic in concessions.

Now we learn that Stanhope and British Land want you to lift the restriction against them encouraging established city centre traders to move to the Edgar Street Grid.

Here, they clearly have the big-name multinationals in their sights. This would, we believe, sign the death knell of High Town and the knock on effect on traders in Broad Street and St Owen Street would be catastrophic.

Your cabinet is now under pressure to approve this major amendment.

The thinly-veiled threat by one of the developers, reported last week, makes chilling reading.

This would be an utterly foolhardy move, which the people of Herefordshire would never forgive you for and from which this city might takes decades to recover.

The alternative – to refuse the developers’ latest demands (which, privately, many Conservative members of your administration probably know is the ‘honourable option’) – might result in the Edgar Street Grid being ‘mothballed’ for the foreseeable future. But Herefordians would applaud your candour and respect your integrity.

Now is surely the time for a reasonable administration to be preparing realistic alternative uses for this highly-prized city asset.

This is Breadline Britain, Cllr Jarvis, not Never Never Land.

Nick Jones,
Brian and Mary Caldicutt,
Peter and Marjorie Cocks,
Gerald Dawe,
John Faulkner,
Jane Gutteridge,
Adrian Harvey,
Rob Hattersley,
Keith James,
Rae Jones,
Stephen Knight,
Brian Mee,
Mike Morley,
Liz Morawiecki,
David Phelps,
Hubert Porte,
Edward Pritchard,
Rebecca Roseff,
Jaqui Tonge.

Kind-hearted Waitrose help city’s dire supermarket shortage

This week, Waitrose has officially agreed to help alleviate Hereford’s chronic supermarket shortage by opening up a new store at the old cattle market building site.

The store will become the first Waitrose (God bless their souls) in the city, offering shoppers a different set of four walls in which they can buy the same old potatoes.

Nigel Keen, Waitrose director of development, said: “We are committed to delivering a quality, food-focused supermarket – a first for Hereford I believe – that will increase the choice of shops and services available for people who still have a secure job and disposable income.”

The news of Waitrose’s commitment follows Hereford Futures’ other achievements to date, which might see the arrival of a Debenhams and maybe a host of other retailers and restaurants.

Alistair Shaw of developers Stanhope said: “Today is an historic day for middle class people all over St James, Broomy Hill and some of Whitecross. It is great that Waitrose has formally committed to Hereford and we are delighted to add them to a potential line-up of retail, dining and leisure names.

“Despite challenging retail conditions across the country, the commitment being shown by leading national names is evidence of real confidence in Herefordshire Council’s skill and ability to give money away unconditionally. As they say, if you throw enough shit at the wall, eventually something will stick.

“Hopefully this development will serve as a key driver to draw more visitors and shoppers from the wider county and beyond, strengthening my job security and my company’s future as a whole.”

Cllr John Jarvis, chief apologist for Hereford Futures and leader of Herefordshire Council added: “These are exciting times for my career as the pieces of the jigsaw finally start to come together. A healthy city economy means an increased chance I’ll get re-elected and I’m delighted Waitrose has committed itself to Hereford.”

Could Hereford’s fairy story become a costly nightmare?

We’re all familiar with the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where a vain leader is hoodwinked by a pair of unscrupulous tailors. Have we, perhaps, been witnessing a re-enactment of Hans Christian Anderson’s story at Brockington this month, with Cllr John Jarvis in the lead role and Cllr Mark Hubbard as the incredulous child who shrieks: “But he’s got nothing on!”

Jarvis Cockup leaves for home after a hard day at the office

Back story: Hereford’s ambitions to be a shopping destination date back over a decade, but it was not until 2007 that a number of ambitious tailors – err sorry, town centre developers – discovered this sleepy cathedral city and the grandiose £80m Edgar Street Grid dream was created. Elsewhere in England, the good burghers of Burnley, Chester and Lancaster were having similarly-ambitious retailing aspirations.

Global uncertainties, Chancellor Osborne’s deficit reduction strategy and countless pessimistic retailing forecasts couldn’t deflect Hereford’s resolve. Corporate finance specialist Deloitte, as recently as March, predicted that as many as four out of 10 high street shops will have to close by 2017, as customers switch to online shopping. Wholly unphased, Herefordshire Council’s cabinet committee this month eagerly rubber-stamped a new agreement with British Land and Stanhope plc, then strong-armed it through the Tory-dominated Overview and Scrutiny committee nine days later, after a tetchy four-hour session.

Fears of the impact on established, locally-owned High Town businesses, the speed with which the six-variation developers’ package had been cobbled together, and Cllr Roger Phillips’ Alice in Wonderland shopping statistics, remained unanswered questions. A specially-convened cabinet meeting is now the only (minor) hurdle for ‘The Emperor’ to negotiate.

Elsewhere in England, sanity reigns. Burnley has just announced that it has shelved its £40m city centre expansion, Chester has parted company with its developer ING, ending a 12-year partnership, and Lancaster – with a population three quarters that of Hereford – has also come to its senses and told developer Centros (who, coincidentally, were one of the finalists in the Hereford ‘beauty contest’ of 2007) to scale back its retail scheme to 20% of its original size.

And what does the naked council leader John Jarvis hear from his cabinet colleagues and the handpicked board members of Hereford Futures, as he preens himself in front of a mirror? “Suits you, Sir!”


Public refuse to leave secret council meeting

Leader of the council, John Jarvis ‘Cockup’, today suspended its cabinet meeting after members of the public refused to leave to allow ‘private’ discussions to take place.

Councillors walked out of their own meeting to carry on in private to cries of anger from the public gallery.

After reconvening in public 40 minutes later, the council unanimously approved amendments to the ESG plan, which will allow High Town shops to be moved to the new retail development.

Passionate interruptions from the public gallery became so frequent that Jarvis Cockup threatened to suspend the meeting yet again if the heckling didn’t stop.

The deal done by the council will now allow:

o developers to poach any existing High Town tenant to move them to the new retail quarter. ESG rents will be so low that it will make financial sense to move across the ring road

o only a third of the site to be initially developed with no timescale agreed to deliver the remaining scheme (meaning a new cinema will not be built for a very long time)

o land to be sold at only a tenth of the original value.

Montagu Evans, acting as surveyors for Herefordshire Council, confirmed that only around seven of the available 35 units have been pre-let. Despite this, Tory councillors continued to state how the only alternative to the current plan would be new Tesco store.

Throughout the meeting Jarvis Cockup appeared vindictive and arrogant when faced with difficult questions. Though the most striking aspect in all of this is how Herefordshire Council are refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming opposition to its plans, not only from those who have been critical from day one, but from people who were at one time supportive but now see the poor deal for it really is.

The deal done today is incredibly bad for Herefordshire. It will see Stanhope and builders Robert McAlpine giving Hereford only a department store and five or six new units likely to be occupied by shops already trading in the city. And that’s it.

The Conservatives on council’s cabinet committee are fooling no one into thinking this will keep young people from moving away or will bring new jobs to the area, as they stated so often as reasons why the amendments should be agreed. It is motived only by money and the fact that can see their cattle market deal becoming worse and worse as the years go by.

Today was a hasty decision taken only to save their political face. A sad day for Herefordshire.

See also: The report the council didn’t want you to see.