A BIG community campaign was gathering momentum this week in an attempt to save one of Broomhill’s most traditional and longstanding shops from closure.
Objections are being lodged to try to halt the potential loss of Williamson Hardware, whose owners believe they are being pushed out to help make way for a Sainsbury’s neighbourhood store.
The shop, in the main Fulwood Road shopping parade, has been trading for 52 years, selling items ranging from kitchenware to garden equipment to electrical goods to customers, who include many students.
The community is rallying to oppose what they see as a threat to a local shop from one of the big retail groups, with the ‘danger’ of a chain reaction.
“Other shops in this parade are fearful for their future if this plan goes ahead,” said director Andrew Williamson, who joined the family business 31 years ago.
He said his priority was to serve the community and to meet his responsibilities to his 13 staff – “not to fill my pockets with money”.
Members of the community group Broomhill Forum were meeting last night to discuss their response, examining options such as a petition and writing to the chairman of Sainsbury’s.
The threat has emerged as the shop’s lease nears its end in November 2013.
According to Mr Williamson, London-based landlords are refusing to renew the lease with a view to Sainsbury’s taking over the premises for one of their ‘Local’ stores. A planning application to make minor alterations to the shop is seen as paving the way legally for a change of leaseholder.
Mr Williamson said he appreciated the local support that was pouring into the council.
“Unfortunately, objections on the grounds that the shop will be sorely missed are not valid for the planners.
“If the supporters wish to make a difference the objections should be made on business grounds – damage to the area by increased traffic flow and danger from increased volume of traffic, lack of infrastructure, etc. Another reason is that this is bang in the middle of the Broomhill Conservation Area.”
Mr Williamson said he hoped to avoid having to go to court over the lease, which would incur costs.
But if they were forced to leave, the realistic aim would be to relocate to try to carry on trading. “It isn’t be easy but that’s probably the best plan.”
The shop was established by Mr Williamson’s mother, Winifred, with his father, Sidney, joining later. Mr Williamson’s brother, Jonathan, is also a director but is not involved directly in the running of the business.
The planning application contains no reference to Sainsbury’s.
A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said: “We don’t have any confirmed plans for Fulwood Road, although it is a location where we may be interested in opening a small shop should the right site become available.”
Howard Fry, secretary of Broomhill Forum, said: “Everybody is objecting to the planning application. Williamson’s have been on Broomhill for over 50 years. It’s a very good store selling a whole range of hardware at good value.
“They are a nice crowd and very helpful to the community. They are selling tickets for the Broomhill Festival.
“The last thing we want is one of the supermarket giants coming in.”
Planning application: 12/01352/FUL.