Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Shops and Shopping Centres (May07)

‘I don’t think I’m going to be very popular with this audience’, I admitted, at the start of my speech to the property retail sector (people who develop shops and shopping centres) at Claridges. ‘I don’t buy much stuff’ I continued, ‘and what I do buy I generally purchase through internet shopping’.

What I realise is that, if everyone shopped like me, retail development would stop in its tracks. As I explained to the audience, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I opened my speech describing the new Tesco supermarket being built in Ilminster. The site was apparently bought around 6 years ago and has been contentious ever since. I ran through some of the issues troubling local residents and traders such as: how will it affect existing businesses; will it fit in with the local vernacular; and what would houses across the valley think about looking onto an extensive white flat roof.

The real point of telling this story was not to protest on behalf of Ilminster but to give an example of something that is happening all over the country – and not just by Tescos. My view is that this sort of bog standard development should stop. Currrently there are only a few examples of state of the art environmental developments – but these should become the norm. We want energy-efficient buildings; green roofs (where plants – and even vegetables are grown on roof tops); day light lighting; water saving measures; solar panels; electric vehicles; innovative waste solutions; less building waste – and a whole host of other things too.

Of course, the key to getting good green developments is customer demand. Apparently the supermarket sector is beginning to feel this and consequently more of them are moving in the right direction. Surely, in PR terms alone, it would be better for companies like Tesco to be welcomed by local residents rather than vilified – even if they get plenty of customers when the store comes to town.

Comment Section

0 Responses

  1. Hi Julia,

    Well done with the blog – an interesting read!

    Your post is a pertinent topic, given M&S’s ‘Plan A’ and such like.

    The value derived from supermarkets and shopping centres is contentious. While they have provided us with ‘cheap’ food and other paraphernalia all under one roof, they have also blighted the landscape, forced thousands of people to jump in their car to do their weekly shopping and under-cut farmers, etc.

    It would be fantastic to see these kinds of developments embrace sustainability in all its glory and, furthermore, make it exciting and visible. With the vast number of people visiting superstores everyday, there is a great possibility here for showcasing sustainable development in action. We could have a mini Eden Project on every high street! Shopping centres, in particular, are well placed to become more sustainable through industrial ecological methods – sharing heat, etc. Perhaps supermarkets could start to grow vegetables on-site, using ‘waste’ heat?!

    As a final thought, this post has made me think about consumption in general. Do we even need these kinds of shops, when most of the stuff that they sell probably winds up in a landfill site after a year or two? I’m thinking we don’t!

    This is a good start however. Let’s hope people start to take note.



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