TESCO – HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
When plans were first put forward by sixties planner Sir Robert Matthews, Salford's new £5,250,000 shopping precinct was going to be the `finest in Europe'. It would consist of 260 shops, a market, spaces for 2000 cars, plus a hotel, offices and flats.
The new precinct was to be part of a brave new future for Salford, a `regeneration' before the word was even used in this context.
As 6000 houses and shops were demolished around the old Hanky Park area, the precinct and the new Ellor Street estate would be the making of Salford, said Councillor Albert Jones announcing the plans in 1962.
In a strange echo of what's happening now with the Tesco superstore, Jones addressed concerns by small traders that the big brand chain stores would wipe them out… "There is no question of the multiples crippling the prospect of the one man shop" he said "All the evidence is that they attract a big clientele by simply being there."
The grand scheme to build the `finest shopping precinct in Europe' never happened as Salford Council ran out of cash, and by the time Salford Precinct was completed in 1971 it was less than half the size intended. No hotel, 95 shop units instead of 260 and no `two storey streets under cover'.
The first shop to open at Salford Precinct was, ironically, Tesco.
By 1990 the Precinct was run down, the Council gave it a £4million facelift and it was re-branded `Salford Shopping City'. And by 1994 there were already secret plans to sell it off which split the ruling Labour Party council, one councillor telling the press that it would be like "selling off the family silver".
Salford Shopping City was eventually sold for £10million to a private company in 2000, as part of a huge programme of sell offs and cuts to tackle Salford Council's deficit of £13.1million. Pembroke Halls, the Education Offices on Chapel Street and Viewpoint Gallery were also sold, Buile Hill Park Mining Museum was shut and there were 530 job losses. The austerity package was announced by Councillor Derek Antrobus, then in charge of Corporate Services, and now still at the Council as head of Planning.
Just a year after the sale, in 2001, news broke that the Council wanted to sell the land across the road from Salford Precinct to build a food `superstore'. It would mean the demolition of St James school and the Methodist church but the new superstore would be part of a brave new future for Salford, a `regeneration' of the area etc etc…
Five years ago it was clear that the land was being sold to Tesco, and in 2008
Bob Osborne, Salford City Council's deputy director of housing and planning, said that the superstore "has the potential to reinvigorate the area as a shopping destination and play a major role in the large scale regeneration of Pendleton."
Osborne added that this would only happen if the Tesco superstore was "integrated into an expanded Salford Shopping City".
In March this year, Salford Shopping City was sold again to Salford Estates for £40million. The company stated that it wanted to invest in the precinct and link it to the new food superstore. But when the plans for Tesco's new superstore were unveiled, Tesco was having none of it…
Cue Store Wars…
See Store Wars Part 2 here…The Battle Commences
See Store Wars Part 3 here: What Do Salford People Think?
* Newspaper cuttings courtesy of Salford Local History Library
Photos by Gareth Lyons