Response Rate. There are 3260 houses on the electoral roll in Whittlesey North Division. I delivered to every house and received 471 replies. That is a response rate of 14.45 percent. It is higher than many local authorities get for their surveys, so given that there was no freepost reply and residents either had to put the returns though my door or post their replies to me, I think that is a fantastic result; it clearly shows how important this issue is to Whittlesey.
Q1. Which is your preferred option for a supermarket in Whittlesey?
Tesco - 17.1%
Sainsbury - 62.2%
Both - 12.1%
Neither - 5.2%
Other (including Aldi/Lidl/Morrisons/Asda) - 3.3%
One of the reasons I decided to do the survey was because the first committee report showed a high proportion of support for Tesco in the responses sent to the planning department. That was totally at odds with what I was being told informally on Facebook, Twitter and in day-to-day contact with people. The survey allowed me to test this in an open and transparent way. I think we can quite safely say that the vast majority of residents favour Sainsbury.
Q2. Which is your preferred location?
Eastrea Road - 86.8%
Station Road - 9.4%
Other - 3.9%
The railway crossing gates on Station Road were mentioned many, many times as the reason for Eastrea Road being a preferred option. A few people who answered "other" and, indeed some who answered "Eastrea Road" referred to the previous Syers Lane application as the best one because of its location to the Town Centre - although there was also some criticism of the previous Syers Lane application.
Q3. Do you think Whittlesey would benefit from a Country Park?
Yes - 85.2%
No - 14.8%
I was surprised by the number who said no. Many of these were supporters of the Tesco application, but certainly not all - and many supporters of Tesco also supported a Country Park. The main reason against was that we already have the Manor Field.
Q4. If there was a supermarket on Station Road and a supermarket on Eastrea Road, which would you use?
Station Road - 4.8%
Eastrea Road - 69.8%
Both - 19.6%
Neither - 5.9%
This was the most surprising result to me. I didn't expect the Station Road response to be as low as this. Some of those that said "both" said so because they wanted to shop around and look for value. There is some correlation between those that answered "Both" to Q1 and those that said "Both" to this question. Sainsbury have made some representation over the last few days that even if Tesco built a loss making superstore on Station Road it would not have an impact on the Town Centre because of the low numbers who would use it. The response to this question suggests that this is a line of thinking that needs further consideration.
Q5. Please explain your choices for Questions 1-4.
I deliberately asked this question so I could separate planning and non-planning reasons. It has to be said that the majority of reasons were non-planning, such as a dislike of Tesco, Tesco monopoly, a feeling that Tesco offered better value and a wider range, or a preference for Sainsbury quality; criticism of Co-op's pricing in their Town Centre store was also a factor. There were however, a number of fascinating comments and one idea around monopoly in particular that I have already asked officers to consider. A separate analysis of this will follow.
Q6. What do you think is the biggest issue facing Whittlesey today?
The responses to this were intriguing. Even though there is a very, very clear wish for a supermarket in Whittlesey, the clear priority for residents is the Town Centre. This shows how important protection and enhancement of the Town Centre is. The 3 biggest issues, in order were; 1. Town Centre; 2. A605; 3. Kings Dyke. This is very useful to me as a representative of Whittlesey. I am currently organising a summit of Senior officers and councillors with Stephen Barclay MP to discuss Whittlesey issues, this was at Stephen Barclay's request when I met him a few weeks ago. Interestingly, the three items we drew up to discuss were the town centre, the A605 and Kings Dyke crossing.
Q7. What National Political Issue is the most important to you?
The reason I asked this question was because I often make representation to National politicians about issues, having a better understanding of the views of residents will help me to do this. The biggest issue was immigration and it's impact on infrastructure. I am going to do a deeper analysis of the response to this question and send it to Stephen Barclay MP.
Voting Intention Questions.
There has been some comment about my decision to include questions about Voting Intention (VI), but I stand by my decision. There are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, it allows me to compare responses to political background and to make sure that I have a spread of views from across the political spectrum. I also shouldn't hide from the fact that it is useful as a politician to measure mid-term support. It also became fascinating to look at the responses to Q7 - and especially the comments about immigration to see if it was reflected in any sort of support for racist political parties. I am proud to say that, even though there is genuine concern about immigration, I represent a Division where just one person said they would support the BNP at a General Election.
Of course if people didn't like the questions about VI, they were perfectly entitled to respond and not answer them, in the same way that people often decline to tell us when we knock on doors during elections. Asking these questions mid-term is pretty common practice - and the fact that people expressed concern about this is an indication to me of how sheltered Whittlesey is from the levels of political activism that are seen elsewhere (largely because the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party do absolutely no work mid-term). I am not going to publish the results of the VI questions, but I will say that I have no concerns and the Lib Dems should be worried.
What didn't the survey bring out?
In the covering letter for the survey I purposely mentioned that the Tesco store was "just on the edge of Whittlesey" and that Sainsbury was "slightly further away." I did this because I thought it would bring out some thoughts around whether the closer location of the proposed Tesco to Whittlesey would protect the Town Centre. It surprised me that this did not feature in the replies at all. It may be that the fact there is, in truth, very little distance between the two proposed sites meant that residents didn't consider it an option. More thinking needs to go into this because protection of Town Centres is a critical part of the National Planning Policy Framework.
I am going to do some deeper analysis of the results over the next few days, and will use them to examine and publish a few thoughts between now and Wednesday.