Sir, – A combination of well publicised decisions and unsubstantiated rumours suggests that, over little more than a decade, Alton will move from having only one major national food retailer to hosting Sainsbury's, M&S, Iceland, Aldi, Tesco and Morrisons, not to mention Tesco Express and the Co-op convenience stores. Whether Alton and its environs can support such a galaxy of stores is not our concern; these organisations can surely look after themselves.
But the effect of these developments on other stores in the town does concern us, and should concern our councillors and planners.
Competing with one another on the availability and price of food items is right and proper for supermarkets, even though local food retailers have to work hard to carve out their own specialist niches. But surely the supermarkets don't have to muscle in on every area of retail enterprise; booze, clothes, stationery, home entertainment, electrical goods and, above all, books.
The situation is bad enough already, with Sainsbury's having expanded into all these areas over the past year or two. The effects on the high street are there for all to see. If the trend continues with the prospective newcomers marketing the same huge range of goods the downward trend will undoubtedly continue. Our particular concern is that we will lose the town's only independent bookseller, but all Altonians will have their own pet worries.
At a time when the Alton Town Partnership is putting such stalwart work into trying to ensure that we get the town we want in the next 10 to 20 years, we should surely support them by pressuring our councillors, and particularly the planners, to consider the wider effects of their decisions.
A new Tesco store doesn't have to be given permission to sell TVs and clothes; the planning authority can actually specify the range of activities to be associated with the granting of a particular planning application. So why don't they?
Possibly because, having already allowed Sainsbury's to sell everything but the kitchen sink, Tesco's would probably shout "foul". If so, the planners should shout back: "Too bad. If you can't make enough money out of your proper business, then please go and ruin some other little town, but not ours."
Chris and Tony Rice, John Eggars Square, Alton