The junction of the High Street and Mill Lane is totally unsuited as an entrance to a superstore. Any new store would - as a minimum - require an additional set of traffic lights in the High Street, which would only exacerbate the existing problems for through traffic.
A new superstore would significant increase levels of traffic. However, according to the Mole Valley Local Plan, "major new road proposals for Dorking were investigated in detail and rejected. One of the principal reasons was that they would unacceptably harm the town’s character. A consequence is that the shopping streets will still need to accommodate vehicular traffic."
The plans in their current form see the demolition of the existing car parks behind St Martin's Walk, but their replacement for the new superstore has only a marginally larger capacity according to a Dorking Preservation Society newsletter. With all the extra traffic coming to the new superstore this is likely to result in an acute parking shortage in the town centre, putting more pressure on those struggling local businesses who have survived the construction period.
The physical impact on the character of Dorking
According to the Mole Valley Local Plan, Dorking is an "architecturally valued historic centre of a traditional scale and character which provides an important focus for local people and visitors".
The traditional image of Dorking is one of a 2000 year old settlement with a long history, ancient buildings, and an important market town for local agriculture. Many would say that a multi-storey development surrounding a modern supermarket complex immediately adjacent to Dorking's landmark church was incompatible with that image.
The impression of a important historic town steeped in tradition is also important to the local economy. Dorking attracts a considerable number of tourists to the historic town centre as well as local beauty spots in surrounding countryside such as Boxhill and the Denby's Vineyard.
The effect on the local economy
Sainsbury’s current store largely sells only food and household goods. The planned superstore will stock other items which will compete directly with other shops in the town.
Local businesses are likely to be amongst the first wave of casualties as the new store eats into their customer base and squeezes profit margins - as can be seen by what has happened nearby towns.
In Hove, Brighton, Tesco opened a large superstore in 2003, and the company claims that this attracted 30,000 new customers. Yet local traders feel that they are worse off and have seen a fall in takings according to an article in the Feb 2004 edition of the trade magazine The Grocer.
It is inevitable that smaller food retailers would suffer, as would purveyors of those non-food items which are stocked in the new store.
The Dorking Preservation Society have also drawn attention in their newsletter to the fact that the new complex is not very well linked to the existing town centre in the plans. Sainsbury's would like their customers to forget that the rest of the town even exists.
More details and examples of the effects of similar edge of town developments can be seen in a government study.
The National Retail Planning Forum has calculated that superstores have an overall negative effect on employment. The average superstore results in a net loss of 276 full-time jobs, only some of which are replaced by part-time workers.
The benefit to the town of Dorking
Studies have shown that similar superstores have led to a loss of jobs and income from the local region, as profits are sucked from the community by the supermarket plc into the hands of distant shareholders and corporations. More details can be see in Supermarket Facts.
The money doesn't even stay in the county either. Sainsbury's three largest shareholders (Brandes Investment, Bernstein Investment and NWQ Investment), accounting for nearly 30% of their shares, are all based in the USA. Many other Sainsbury's shareholders are also based overseas.
Effects during the construction period
According to the Dorking Preservation Society who have seen the developer's plans recently it will take two years to construct the store, during which time Dorking will lose a large part of its car parking facilities as they are knocked down and lowered to the level of the Pipbrook. This would also result in the loss of the children's play area in the Meadowbank Recreation Ground during that time, and the nearby football club which is struggling to keep afloat would also lose all nearby matchday parking. Likewise the town's markets (the Friday Market and the Farmers' Market) would have to be re-located within the borough, which will see a further erosion of their customer base.
The need for a new supermarket
There are three national retailers already based in the Dorking area who already sell food and groceries: Waitrose, Sainsbury's and M&S. There are also a large number of superstores within a short distance in neighbouring towns for those who wish to use them. The town of Dorking and the immediate locality is therefore already well served by large retailers. There is also room for some expansion at the present Sainsbury's site; Waitrose, too, have options to increase the size of their store.
Other possible reasons for objections to the plans could include: