Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Magic of Machynlleth.

I've always liked the place. And its not just because Machynlleth has a history as a seat of government. The most well known instance of this was the establishment by Owain Glyndwr of a Parliament in 1404, where he was proclaimed the Prince of Wales. The nearest thing to a Parliament of Machynlleth that exists today is the debating forum at the local Bowling Club. In order to begin my research into the local attitude towards a proposed new Tesco supermarket in the town, it was to the Bowling Club that I went to began my journey. Seated at the 'cabinet table' was that great local historian and author, David Wyn Davies and the equally celebrated local tribune and leading town spokesman, Councillor Michael Williams. You may think it unusual for a 'parliament' to be disguised as a bowling club, but this could be a cunning plan to fool the 'outsider'.

After the taking of evidence, along with a lager, we three headed to the war zone, otherwise known as the local livestock market and old Travis Perkins site. This is where it is proposed that the supermarket be raised. Must admit I thought it was a very good site. Currently it an unattractive area, reasonably close to the town centre, with a long frontage onto the road. Its also adjacent to a well used railway station. I could see no credible planning reason whatsoever for not granting the application by Tesco to build its supermarket. But I'm told there is a lot of opposition, led by the Guardian writer, George Monbiot, who lives in the town, and the local MP, Lembit Opik.

I accept that there is some deeply felt opposition. There are posters in some shop windows stating 'Tesco. Dim Diolch' - which translates to Tesco No Thanks. But there are many more posters supporting the development, and not one single person that I spoke to today in Machynlleth or in near-by Penegoes had any objection at all. And as I blogged yesterday, Tesco has already brought some extra trade to the town's egg suppliers. Someone has been buying eggs to pelt the shop fronts of those who are opposing Tesco. I do not approve of this expression of opinion, but can find no rational reason to join in with the opposition myself. I'll have to leave this to the MP.

And then it was back for tea at the great historian's house. A good while ago, we were councillors together, and have a few memories between us. I left laden with his books to read. There was 'A Mach Lad' - a life story of Emrys James, the Shakespearian actor. And 'A History of the River Dovey'. And 'Hugh Williams' - the man who was Rebecca. And 'Machynlleth Town Trail' - a historical guide. I also joined the Civic Society for the fee of £1. And I have the telephone number of a direct descendant of Owain Glyndwr, who I'm told enjoys a game of social golf. Imagine that. Playing golf with a man related to the greatest ever Welshman. I must ring him tomorrow.


Frank H Little said...

Machynlleth is also a good stopping-off point for the Dulas valley, including the Corris narrow-gauge railway, and the ecology centre.

As a visitor a couple of years ago, I would have welcomed the convenience of a 24-hour Tesco. A resident would know all the different small shops, of course.

I believe the threat from Tesco would be not to the specialist shops but to the Coop supermarket in Machynlleth. I have mixed feelings about this.

Glyn Davies said...

Frank - Many people have mixed feelings about it - but in the end it has to be a 'yes' or a 'no'. It seems to me that most people in the town have come down on the 'yes' side. I do think that quite a lot of customers will use the train, and that Machynlleth business will be substantially increased. It will be up to the Co-op to respond.

Idris said...

The trouble is that the CoOp in Machynlleth is terrible, in comparison with the CoOp in Tywyn which is so much better it seems to be from a different organisation. As such, if the Machynlleth CoOp were to close it would be no loss! Furthermore, the parking arrangements at the CoOp are quite dangerous

Mike Parker said...

So glad you had a good day in Machynlleth, Glyn. It is, as you acknowledge, a very special town. It is special because it is unique and very rooted in its community - the very things that many of us fear (and, looking at other towns, with good reason) to be threatened by such a disproportionately huge multinational development.

You claim not to have met anyone anti the Tesco development. And yet Powys County Council received nearly 700 letters opposed to the scheme - how have you managed not to talk to any one of these local residents? There are plenty of us around.

And your optimism that people will come on the train to Tesco is pie-in-the-sky. One or two may occasionally, but these stores are built entirely for the car driver. Traffic in Machynlleth is already a huge problem: adding loads more to the town (and to make a development like this profitable, they have to be expecting many people from outside the immediate catchment area to come there) will cause major disruption.

Glyn Davies said...

Idris - I don't know much about the Co-op, though I have shopped there a few times. Competition usually drives up standards.

Mike - I know there is opposition. I saw signs opposing Tesco in a bookshop opposite thesite, another two shops in the town and in a house window in Penegoes - but I spoke with perhaps 20 people and none of them were opposed. Perhaps it was just coincidence, but I do always pay a lot of heed to the opinion of the local council - which voted 6 -2 in favour. I can only blog what I hear.

CVaughan said...

There is no doubt the majority of local residents are in favour of the application. I am also in favour although I would probably not use Tesco on a regular basis myself. However, we have to consider families who have to make their income stretch as far as possible.

I feel no loyalty to the Co-op since they closed their doors in the 1970s and left their loyal customers without a second thought.

Keep up the good work Glyn

Idris said...

Regarding Mike Parker's comment;
Anybody who knows the true people of Machynlleth (and I am one) will know that we are generally so apathetic that we wouldn't write a protest letter if you threaten to pull our houses down! Therefore I can safely conclude that these much mentioned (and I think rather mythical) 700 complainants can only be outsiders (non residents of Machynlleth), whose opinion doesn't count!

Kelvin Jenkins said...

Mr Davies, you should be ashamed of your flippant remark about the cowardly vandal attacks on homes in Machynlleth. Because both properties attacked are not only shops, but the homes of the proprietors. One is occupied by two ladies, who have done more charitable and community work than any other people I can think of in the town. The was mine. My wife, who like myself is above pensionable age, was very shaken by the attack, and left in fear of more such criminality.

I intend to report your remarks to your party. I am happy to say that most people who take part in the online Tesco debate, have taken a much less facetious attitude than your own, and have contacted me with expressions of sympathy.

As for Owain Glyndwr, it just happens that in 1881, according to the census, my great great etc grandfather was living as a shepherd, with his/my family, in Hyddgen. You maybe have heard of it - it was the site of one of Owain's greatest battles against the foreign invaders of his own day! My family, I might add, have been in the area ever since.

CVaughan said...

Idris you are correct in your assumptions. The planning department have told me that many of the letters are from the south of England!!!!

CVaughan said...

Kelvin for god's sake get a sense of humour. Glyn is obviously being very tongue in cheek through the whole blog not just in his reference to the egg incident.

Kelvin Jenkins said...

in reply to Idris: the 700 complainants were neither mostly mythical nor from outside the area. Over 400 of the letters were handed in to a collecting point in Machynlleth to make sure they arrived at the council offices in time. This was because Tesco pulled a dirty last-minute trick to reduce the time to the deadline by 4 days. They were all vetted to make sure they came from within the SY20 area. All had full names and local addresses, as I'm sure PCC could verify. Let's stick to facts and truth here, please.

Glyn Davies said...

Ceinwen - Agreed that it does seem to be majority opinion - on my admittedly sketchy polling!

Idris - Everybody's opinion counts, though I do agree that it is a 'Montgomeryshire' trait not to write letters of objection.

Kelvin - Sorry to have caused you offence. I do sometimes allow what you refer to as a facetious tone to slip into blog posts - even on serious issues. I do think you are being a touch unfair though because I did make it clearthat I did make it clear that I do not approve of what happened. Several people referred to the egg throwing incident yesterday and I told them all that I considered it totally out of order. I do write blog posts in a quirky style, which regular visitors have come to expect. But I do not want to cause offence, and will ensure that any future comment avoids anything similar.

Glyn Davies said...

Idris, Ceinwen and Kelvin - In the end the planning authority will decide the issue on planning grounds. I sometimes think that letters of suppoprt or objection make very little difference. It seemed to me that there were no strong planning reasons to support refusal - though access onto the highway may be an issue, despite it being a great improvement on what exists at present. My reason for not opposing the development is that it will greatly improve the part of Mach where it is to be located, it will draw new business into the town (in my opinion anyway) and that local opinion (as expressed through the Town Council) is in favour. And Ceinwen is right. I have written a blog for about 4 years, and have built up a strong visitor base, who expect a slightly 'off the wall' approach to issues. There is never any intention to cause offence.

Anne Nixon said...

Mr Glyn Davies
Your flippant remarks about the egg-throwing incident have prompted me to make my first public comment on the Tesco debate.
The reason I find your remarks distasteful is because, at some point in the evening some person decided to target just two specific houses. They approached the homes during the night or very early in the morning, to throw eggs at the doors.
I have every right to feel affronted by your cavalier attitude to this because my home was one of the ones singled out.
Perhaps, during your walk about town you could have called to both our shops to speak with us, then you would be able to say that you had spoken those victimised and therefore at least 4 people who were against the takeover of the town by such a large organisation.

Glyn Davies said...

Anne - I accept your invitation to call next time I'm in Machynlleth. I would very much like to speak with people opposed to the proposals. I can only repeat my response to Kelvin. I write my blog in a certain sort of way, which is why a good number of people visit every day. If I'm writing comment for the media, or speaking to non-blog audience, I take a different approach - and I'm sorry that you have taken offence.

Ali Nicoll said...

Mr Davies,

I wish for Tesco or any supermarket to arrive in Machynlleth as I believe that the area is in dire need of it.

In summary the reason's why are

Now, hopefully not being rude nor wishing to take up too much space in your comment section but my full response can be found here

Glyn, please use whatever influence you have to spread the message that the majority of those who reside in area that Machynlleth Town Council administer do want this application approved.

Please try and keep any reply to my comment/blog with Dr Davies blog.

Anonymous said...

I guarantee that the so called seven hundred letters are not from the Machynlleth area. No way. I live here and the bulk of Mach people are very much in favour of the store. The no campaign is led by a tiny but vocal minority. They are being given way too much attention by the County Times ( presumably in order to try and justify the hopeless Lembit Opik's silly anti Tesco remarks ) and also by your good self, Glyn. We want a Tesco here and are more than a little fed up with the local MP's highly misleading comments

Kelvin Jenkins said...

dear anonymous...since you are not prepared to use your own name to call me a liar. I repeat that at least 400 of the letters of objection were definitely from residents of the SY20 postal area, as they were checked for validation before delivery. If you wish to call me a liar again, feel free to call at my shop and say it to my face.

Anonymous said...

Wow, if Kelvin Jenkins' attitude typifies the average anti Tesco campaigner, then no wonder things have turned nasty! Problem is the anti Tesco lot know they're onto a loser here and so they're lashing out.
Presumably he and his ilk are Lembit Grope-it supporters. Well the MP for Hello is barking up the wrong tree with his negative stance on Tesco in Machynlleth. The anti lot well know that most people want a Tesco in Machynlleth. And if my maths serve me correctly, four hundred is still not sven hundred! Anyway, one wonders if the four hundred are bona fida. How many could well be fakes or duplicates? Just a thought.....

Glyn Davies said...

Ali - It does seem to me that a majority of Mach. residents favour the Tesco development. I've met with Tesco representatives this afternoon to put points that have been made to me. It also seemed to me that there is no planning reason to refuse Tesco.

Anon - I don't think you can blame the media for covering this issue. Its as rare as it is disappointing to see such a strong division of opinion within a community.

Kelvin - Strong stuff.

Anon - I have no idea about numbers of objections - but I do recall a senior planning officer at Powys county Council telling me recently that letters for or against planning applications carry no weight at all.
Kelvin clearly feels very strongly about this issue. You can read in comments that he has been very critical of me for making what I saw as harmless jocular comment. But I never criticise people for really believing in what they say, and I do wish that I hadn't said it now. He has every right to his opinion, and I'm content for him and others to use my blog to express it.

Idris said...

I'm not calling you a liar, although I simply cannot believe that there are 700 genuine Machynlleth people (not to include people with second homes in the area) who are so opposed to this improvement to our welfare that they would write in protest. Why on earth would they since it will do them no harm? And 400 is not 700!

Incidentally, anonymity is the refuge of a scoundrel, even if your views reflect mine!

Anonymous said...

Well i have just read all the comments on the Tesco debate I live near the proposed new build and I hope with all my heart that it comes because if it doesn`t i dread to think what will become of the area which is already becoming a bit of an eyesore It would be nice to pop over the road to do my big shop every month instead of the treck to Morrisons in Aberystwyth my fingers are firmly crossed and I welcome Tesco