As part of all the mewling and puking from the roads lobby last week surrounding the government decision to cut the Mottram Bypass, the Stalybridge and Hyde MP, Jonathan Reynolds, saw an opportunity to burnish his pro-bypass credentials with his disillusioned electorate. He issued a press release and appeared on BBC Radio Manchester's 'Beswick at Breakfast' show last Thursday.
Now we've been lambasting Reynolds over his failure to address the concerns of his electorate regarding the Hattersley Tesco Extra for a while now. For months now, there has been a perfect silence about the issue from him, even through the General Election campaign. But his appearance on Alan Beswick's show left him vulnerable to being asked any question, and the astute Beswick took the opportunity to corner him on Tesco.
You can listen to the segment of the show and read a full transcript of the interview after the 'read more' link below. But what interests us are Reynolds' comments about Tesco, and these need to be highlighted here.
Firstly, Reynolds admits that the store "will have an impact on traffic". But later, he seeks to dilute this admission, by saying that "there won't be that different a change to the traffic flows ... in the area". It seems to us that he can't have it both ways. As Beswick implies, Tesco have chosen this site because of the proximity to the motorway and trunk road network, in order to maximise access and thereby profit. As we've always stated, the plan for the store anticipated the Bypass, but with the Bypass now on hold for an indeterminate length of time, it will now seek to precipitate it. All Reynolds can do is to state that the traffic problems of the A628/A57/M67 exist in a bubble, and that development in Tameside cannot make any difference. Isn't it funny that Roy Oldham's refrain was always that 'development in Glossop and High Peak' was responsible for increased traffic on this road? Not Tameside though, just Glossop and High Peak.
Secondly, Reynolds seeks to differentiate the store from the Bypass by stating that the Tesco is part of the 'regeneration' of Hattersley. 'Regeneration' in this context is code for the furtherance of the goals of sectors of private capital over social considerations. So the maintenance of existing housing can only be brought about by awarding massive concessions to a private company. We've seen another example of this today with the revelation that Tesco are secretly funding public infrastructure in Salford in return for being given the go-ahead on massive planning projects.
Thirdly, Reynolds seeks to downplay the scale of the Tesco store. The 525 car parking spaces go unmentioned, and Reynolds says, ridiculously, "There's a lot of controversy as to whether it would be described as a Tesco Extra - the size of the site is not comparable to some of the Tesco Extras we have seen in other parts of the country". There is no controversy - the artists impression of the store shows quite plainly the Tesco Extra logo emblazoned upon it! In addition, the Tesco Extra is the largest type of store that Tesco construct - at 95,000 square feet, the Hattersley store will be only 15% smaller than the store at Portwood in Stockport.
But Reynolds can afford to be blase - because Tesco seem to have won. With that twat Eric Pickles ignoring this issue, it seems the group set up to oppose the store plan have surrendered (at least if the disappearance of their website is anything to go by). With Siege upping their profile again, it seems that the future belongs to Tesco, if not the responsibility for the traffic, and Tameside MBC's silence regarding the road funding announcement is ominous: perhaps Tesco have thrown some money at reviving Bypass 2.0 behind the scenes?
Have the pro-bypass lobby snatched victory from the jaws of defeat? Unfortunately, it now seems that only time will tell.
Jonathan Reynolds: I've actually lived on this road, in the area, both in Hollingworth and Mottram, so I do know it very well: people, when they ask me where I'm the MP for, they tend to say one of two things; first of all they'll say "is the Buffet Bar still open at Stalybridge Station?", which I'm pleased to say it is, and then they'll say "do you represent that bit where you're coming from Sheffield or you're getting to the end of the M67 where there is always a traffic jam?" - and there always is. When you see the list of projects that's gone through, and some bypasses obviously have been approved, I think it is reasonable for me to ask "what is the criteria (sic), and why is this not figuring at all..."
Alan Beswick: Why do you think it is, and why do you think it's been left off?
JR: When you look at the motorway network, it's hard to see why this problem wasn't envisaged when we started building motorways in this country. You look at the pattern of them across the country and you could probably point to this point on the map and say "this is going to be a problem, in this area where the motorway stops". It is difficult, there have been obviously the original bypass plans tapered out into the Peak Park and that triggered the opposition and I understand that, I thought that was a little bit unreasonable given the majority of the scheme wasn't there and people maybe didn't get that, but I accept that there were problems with the Public Inquiry and the evidence that went in - I fought, and like Roy Oldham, really tried to push this forward when he looked for a smaller scheme, tried to speak to partners in the area about that because everyone wants a solution, we don't just want to push it elsewhere. But really, you talk to a lot of my constituents and they've got conspiracy theories that this hasn't been...
AB: There are always conspiracy theories - the truth is that your party in government didn't do anything about it.
JR: Well, Alan I won't hesitate to say, frankly, this should have been built decades ago, and there've been periods of Labour government, and yes, it should have been built in that time and I don't think anyone could say anything else. One thing I would say on that though is there was never a problem with getting people to come and look at the problem. To be honest, to be fair to the previous Conservative government pre-1997, several of their Secretaries of State came up to Mottram and saw this problem as well. I think Roy memorably told me once story where somebody came up and promised a Bypass and had been sacked by the time he got back to London!
AB: That's politics, as you well know!
JR: Absolutely, yes!
AB: In the meantime, what do you think the go-ahead for the Hattersley Tesco Extra's going to do? OK, it's 400 jobs, and I'm sure everyone in the area welcomes that, but, it means that the traffic could get worse, one presumes?
JR: It will have an impact on traffic. I see this as a bit of a red herring though generally Alan because why would people sit through the Longdendale Traffic to go to Tesco when there's one at Glossop anyway? I mean there will be some impact on the roads around it but the regeneration of Hattersley is something very dear to my heart and I think obviously we want a solution to this traffic problem decades ago, but to halt the regeneration programme in Hattersley because we haven't got this sorted would not be a fair or reasonable step to take, basically. And of course I can appreciate that there are some concerns in the wider area but we need a solution to this traffic problem regardless of what investment goes into the area, as is stands now anyway.
AB: But in the past - and certainly not very far from there - in the past, in Stockport for example, major retail developments have been delayed because of the traffic structure.
JR: Yes, but if you're talking about some of the developments around the M60 in Stockport, this is not on the same scheme as that, this is the...
AB: I know it's not on the same scheme, I'm just offering it as an example, and you know, it's a Tesco Extra - they're gigantic!
JR: There's a lot of controversy as to whether it would be described as a Tesco Extra - the size of the site is not comparable to some of the Tesco Extras we have seen in other parts of the country...
AB: You're in a cleft stick aren't you, there's the truth of it? You don't want to say 'we can't have this development' - you're getting it anyway - you don't want to criticise the development because of the jobs but, probably, you must think it'll have some effect on the traffic, otherwise they wouldn't be building it - they're not daft Tescos...
JR: Well, don't forget, it's a Tesco and new District Centre - there's a library and community centre as well, and that's why...
AB: Well that's not going to reduce the traffic, I mean even drivers read!
JR: Yes, but what I'm saying is, if you look at the problems of the traffic in Mottram, this is regional traffic flows, it's not caused by local developments in Tameside. If we don’t go ahead with the development like this, there won't be that different a change to the traffic flows anyway, in the area. We need a solution to the traffic problem coming through the area as people go between Sheffield and Manchester and avoid the M62.