Saturday, 25 August 2012

Supermarket Survey Results

I have now had a chance to double-check the formulae that underpin the spreadsheet I created to analyse the results of my supermarket survey.  I am confident that they are right, and therefore I think it is probably about time that I published the results.

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.


  1. I'm almost ready to compile the results of my own survey, which has gone out across most of my county division.

    I thought I'd mention that the Number One issue in my survey identified by local people was *immigration*. It is not a close contest, it is *by far* the most common response over and again. So in that, my survey and yours are bringing up the same issue.

  2. Interesting results there and some good questions beyond the main subject of the survey

  3. I do not drive and live off Yarwells Headland. Would there be a bus service to and from the supermarket. For those of us that do not have a car, I am concerned that the taxi firms in Whittlesey will charge over £5 to go to Sainsbury or Tesco's. Has this been taken into consideration ?

  4. A supermarket located with access from Eastrea Road will add another 2 roundabouts to an already busy main road.
    We are a through route, which does not add to trade within the town.
    I do not think a new supermarket on Eastrea Road (the only economically viable option) would detract from town retail trading other than the Co-Op. Get rid of through traffic that only stops at convenience stores and the town will benefit long term.
    A good long term solution to traffic flow would be a bypass for Whittlsey running from Horsey Toll to Eldernel. Advantages would be many including:
    Better standard of living for all living on the main A605 from Kings Dyke to Coates.
    Enhanced access to any new developements within the town.
    Relief for east-west traffic currently using the A47.
    Encouragement for investment within the town.
    Increased safety within the area.

    Other towns/villages within Fenland have been enhanced with bypass investment, it must be our turn.
    We are not in Peterborough and are a backwater of Fenland. Let's have some action.
    There have been promises of a bridge over the railway for many years but never any action.

    When we have bad weather and there is an inch of water on the Thorney road, it is closed, doubling the traffic on the A605 to Peterborough.

    Why not spend money on raising the level of the Thorney road and the small area of North Bank that floods to eradicate the road closed problem. All will benefit.


  5. Firstly, the Taxi firms are not allowed to charge what they like - the maximum they are able to charge is set by Fenland's Licencing Committee.

    There are all sorts of options with buses - there are definite possibilities for a bus running from the Market Square to one of the sites.

  6. It is very gratifying to get a response to a survey, oftentimes one wonders what happens with them, which I am sure is why many people do not fill them in.

    Many people feel that businesses within the town centre fail because of the cost of leasing/renting the premises, perhaps it would be better to reduce these costs rather than let premises stand empty. Would this be a viable solution to keeping the town centre alive?


  7. This is a fascinating point. One of the things that I picked up from the survey was that many people still believe that it is Fenland DC that set business rates. They don't and haven't done for some time - the level of it is set by Government, Fenland are just responsible for collecting it. In terms of property rent - that is up to the landlords. I do think they need to be a bit more imaginative. Sainsbury have suggested that they will support a scheme which will encourage Town Centre use which I will be digging into between now and Wednesday.

  8. Starting with the fact that most people want cheaper, and if you compare Co-op to Sainsbury's prices, you will see this is not going to happen)
    However, the councillors need to be thinking more about the bigger picture - Are we busy ignoring the fact that, come what may, Whittlesey WILL grow, and it will grow Southward( and southeast around Eastrea) - despite what various planning apps have tried, all the area to the North AND North East is floodplain - all the way up to the new roundabouts proposed by both Eastrea Rd developments.
    The only bypass we can ever get is going to be south, not North - and link to the Cardea roundabout. Thus something will have to be done to keep the station gates open for longer - how about some electrically operated gates for a start?
    If our campaign for more trains works, there will be eaiser access to jobs, and there will be more commuters wanting a convenient store there.
    The trading estate would benefit from a road that does not require its HGVs to navigate Inhams Rd, and easier access would perhaps regenerate it. Whichever supermarket comes there will be more lorries, and we will have a better case for a bypass if they are going to the station.

    Much of the area that Sainsburys is suggesting for a country park is already open to amenity use, Guildenburgh, the stables and bridle way, Lattersey, fishing lakes - vastly underused. If we really want a country park, what about the brick pit which is currently earmarked to become a waste tip - and nobody objecting to that upwind of the town (??) How about allowing that to flood by turning off the pumps and making it a great water sports area.

    By the way, has anyone really consulted the people of Eastrea about whther they want a supermarket on their doorstep - up until now they have been quite protective of their open space.

  9. What is it about Supermarket planning that WHITTLESEY people fail to understand Harrier developments have permission to build a Supermarket in your Town done thing! they can & they will build in Station Road when & if they please why are you condemning them for that? they submitted a planning application fair & square for this and it was FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL that approved the application. Now we have established that... There has been two recent reports for this matter and it has been made very clear that Whittlesey CAN NOT SUPPORT two food stores due to impact on the Town Centre and the roads.
    So it is an obviouse NO to two stores! unless you want your town to suffer. Now we have established that... Do people want a Supermarket on Station Road most don't due to the railway crossing, So forget Whiteacre Management who are clouding the water & let Harrier development move thier consent & give you a store in a more convenient postion, or this will all end up in court!