What is a town? The definition is a place larger than a village but smaller than a city, and the commercial centre of a district.
Newton Stewart has these attributes. It also has the benefit of being situated beneath the Southern Uplands and beside the Solway coast. It has all the appearance of an upright and vibrant community, which is what all towns aim for.
It has a good population, good shops with a steady stream of customers. It has good eating places and takeaways. It has good filling stations with competitive prices. It has good tradespeople. It is a good community.
But can this happy state be maintained? The answer lies with the public. The status quo could prove to be fragile if people believe the promises made by those who propose building a supermarket at the top end of the bypass.
Newton Stewart needs another supermarket like I need a nail in the head. The proposed supermarket location is on the prime site in the area for catching traffic from all points of the compass. The motoring public will be able to buy their fuel and groceries without ever setting foot in Newton Stewart.
That is the supermarket’s plan, of course. It will starve the other, existing shops. There is no consideration for the community as it is. All the supermarkets want is to take the money from the area and put nothing back.
The application comes with all the usual promises, such as the creation of jobs. But at whose expense? Any jobs created will come at a price from existing businesses that will go to the wall. These are businesses that help to sustain local tradesmen who carry out maintenance and repairs to their premises. After the supermarket is built, there will be fewer tradesmen as the big chains use outside contractors.
We have three first class filling stations with competitive prices, but they will be hit. What will happen to their premises if they become derelict?
If our councillors cannot see what has happened to the likes of Dumfries, Castle Douglas and Stranraer, they must be blind.
The initial construction will employ some locals but they will be working for a contractor outwith Newton Stewart and only for a short duration.
What is more important: community or satisfying some large concern’s greed? For me, it is community every time.
The supermarket plan is a capricious one, ill-thought-out and with no concern for the consequences. Taking the heart out of Newton Stewart does no-one any good. Let the status quo remain.
Now that planning permission is being sought, let us make sure it never comes to fruition. There have been some far better ideas put forward for Newton Stewart that have been refused – ideas that would have brought prosperity to the whole area.
I hope our local councillor, Graham Nicol, remembers he is there to look after the interests of Newton Stewart.
Ada-Villa, Palnure, Newton Stewart.