Sir: Back in the very early 1970s I had the terrifying task of proposing a resolution to a council meeting of the Surrey Federation of Women's Institutes calling upon the government to discourage the building of large 'hypermarkets' on the periphery of towns. Before an audience of upwards of 400 ladies I argued that such a development would damage the trade of small shops in the town centres and surrounding villages and increase traffic on country lanes not built to take it. What, we asked, would happen to the old and poor who had no transport?
At the time none of us had had any actual experience of such a superstore, since there were only one or two in the whole country. The meeting voted overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution, however, and letters were sent to the then government outlining our arguments. How is it, then, that they are suddenly so amazed at the effect these stores are having on our towns and villages when 400 women could see what would happen all those years ago?