I had no intention of adding to my last post about the perverse decision of Stirling Council to go against official recommendation and permit a new ASDA superstore on a greenfield site further out from Stirling than any other retail development. Climate crisis, food crisis, city centre crisis – who cares? Seemingly not those councillors.
As a colleague kindly said, getting the story on the front of the local paper had already put enough people off their cornflakes or porridge.
But then Stirling Council tweeted out about their signing of the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration. Yes really, the Council that had just a few weeks before given permission for a car-dependent, out-of-town, greenfield land-eating ASDA superstore was now virtue signalling its commitment to tackling climate change and car dependency and in support of local food systems and all manner of sustainability.
You really couldn’t make it up.
“Enhancing and integrating our food systems will be vital in the fight against climate change and that requires local action, so it’s vital that local authorities such as Stirling step up to meet this challenge.
We are proud to be one of the first Scottish Councils to sign this declaration which aligns with our ongoing work to make Stirling a Good Food City – a place where everyone can access healthy, affordable and sustainable food”
Yes, the same Scott Farmer who led the charge to overturn his officials’ recommendations and give permission to a huge car dependent Asda. “Stirling – A Good Food City”. Yea right.
Paragraph 15 of the Glasgow Declaration should have given Stirling Council some pause for thought surely:
“Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from urban and regional food systems in accordance with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, and building sustainable food systems that are able to rebuild ecosystems and deliver safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, and sustainable diets for all.”
But then a careful reading of the Declaration should raise all sorts of flags about out-of-town superstore developments and food systems.
Then the week got even better. The following day the Daily Record triumphed that a new B&M store was opening that day in an old Homebase unit at Springkerse (yes the out of town development that protested the Crookbridge application), and that 60 ‘new’ jobs would be created.
Close reading of the story produces two worrying thoughts. First, are these new additional ‘new’ jobs to the local area? They replace a failed store, and B&M have agreed to keep an old store nearer the city centre open for ‘at least’ three years? Presumably jobs will be lost or transferred from that store during and at then end of that period (and one hopes it does not ‘stay open’ in the same way Marks and Spencer does in East Kilbride, see here and here; whilst that situation arose for a different set of reasons, does anything stop something like this during the three years?).
Secondly, this B&M has been permitted to sell food from the site. This is despite almost two decades of the Council sticking to the conditions of the original and previous planning consents i.e. no sale of food. The permission for abandoning the restrictions came against official recommendations, objections and long-standing precedent. That decision from a year ago of course produced its own precedent and probably encouraged the Crookbridge applicants to continue to try their luck (again).
The only good thing in this sorry saga is at least B&M are reusing an older store (well 15 years or so old) and not building on greenfield land.
By signing up to the Glasgow Declaration (and their other strategies, policies, whatever for good food) Stirling Council are signalling an ambition. By their actions though, they are showing their true colours and beliefs, wedded in the past and deniers of the crises in climate, food poverty, sustainability and social justice. Actions are what count and positive actions in these arenas by Stirling Council remain in very short supply.