This Thursday (28th April) at 1.30pm sees a meeting of councillors and the developers of the Smithfield Retail Development at the Council Chamber, Castle View Oswestry.
The meeting has been called because the developers having said they would run a 7 day shuttle bus at the planning meeting which nudged them over the "winning" line have now, it appears, decided that the terms of that agreement should be changed, needless to say in their favour.
Local group OS21 who have worked hard looking at the proposed change to the agreement made the following observations:
1. Instead of offering a payment to Shropshire Council for Arriva, or another substantial specialist contractor, to provide a service, the developers have taken the unusual step of offering to provide the service themselves. But, once the scheme is completed, there is no incentive for them to run an adequate service. It is just a cost to them. Their incentive is to rid themselves of this cost as swiftly as possible.
2. The agreement specifies certain details about the service – but is silent on a host of matters, such as cleanliness, punctuality, staff absences and mechanical failure, central to the running of a satisfactory service.
3. The standard of service will be reviewed annually, but the council will lack effective sanctions because the agreement specifically restricts the council from ever asking the operator to pay more than their operating costs for the previous year.
4. The developer will provide one bus and two drivers. There are no undertakings that the service will not be affected by staff sickness, holidays or mechanical breakdown.
5. In a schedule of 15 paragraphs dealing with the shuttle bus, fully one-third (5 paragraphs) is taken up with arrangements to end the service before its term. It certainly reads as if the developers are positioning themselves for an early exit.
6. Fuel and transport prices are increasing. That upward trend is unlikely to alter over the next 20 years. But if the developers exercise their option to pay off their shuttle bus obligations (by making a payment to Shropshire Council), they will be asked to pay no more, for each year the agreement has left to run, than their average operating deficit to date. This will clearly be less than is necessary to run the service in future years, as there is no accounting for wage inflation, for fuel inflation, or for depreciation to provide for the bus replacement which will then be needed.
7. The agreement theoretically lasts for 20 years. In commercial terms, this is a long time. There are no provisions should Liberty Mercian cease to trade. At the very least, the developer should be expected to post a substantial bond to protect the shuttle bus in the event of the company’s failure.
Could we expect any more from a Supermarket Developer? Do they even care whether anyone catches the bus from the out-of-town supermarket into the heart of Oswestry? I very much doubt it.
So, whatever your thoughts on the pros and cons of this out-of-town retail development, pop along to the meeting on Thursday and make your presence felt.
Member since: 10th July 2012
A quick introduction - I'm John Waine, Director of TheBestOfOswestry. Having lived in this beautiful area for around 20 years now, I have decided to stay. :)
With kind thanks