Opposition mounts to supermarket proposal

THE business community in Newton Stewart has vowed to fight plans for a new supermarket on the edge of town.

The vast majority of 60-plus business people from the area who attended a meeting of the Newton Stewart Business Association on Wednesday night were vociferously against the development.

Last week, CWP Property and Investments had an open day in The Cinema, Newton Stewart, to show local people their proposal for a 30,000 square foot superstore with parking for 160 vehicles and a petrol station just off the A75 at Barnkirk.

Although a planning appli- cation has not yet been lodged with the council, NSBA chairman Gordon Andews said he expected retailers in the town to have strong objections due to the damaging effect a superstore could have on high street shops.

He said: “This is all theory at the moment but the business community would object on the grounds that the store is out of town, on a zone earmarked for industrial, not retail, development and on the grounds of over-provision.

“Transport Scotland could also have say in this as it is against anything on the side of the roads.

“The NSBA doesn’t want to stick its head in the sand and it’s not a case of we don’t want a supermarket: it’s more a case of we’ve already got them.

“Aldi and Sainsbury’s are two major multiples already in the town, plus the Co-op, so you have to ask if a new store could offer more than they do. If you shop in them you will also take a walk down the street to visit other shops but if you have an out-of-town store, you will do a big shop then just head back onto the A75 again.

“I understand that a lot of people do leave Newton Stewart at weekends anyway to do their shopping, but that’s the same for a lot of other small towns.

“Business people here are very worried about this and we also thought it a bit bizarre to say it would create 150 jobs. I can’t see that happening.

“When it comes to objections, it’s not for the business association to put in one objection – it would have more clout if there were a lot of individual objections.”

Mr Andrews added that although the majority of people attending the meeting were against the idea, there was also some support for a new store.

Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce has been consulting with Newton Stewart businesses over the supermarket proposal.

The chamber has expressed reservations about the plan and its president, Peter Jeal, met with Ritchie Grierson of CWP and planning consultant James Harbison last week when he raised a number of issues, the chief concern of which was the potential impact of out-of-town retailing on the town centre.

He also questioned claims by CWP that Newton Stewart’s catchment was a population of 21,000. He said: “Wigtownshire as a whole has a population of around 28,000 and the bulk of them live in Stranraer and the Rhins so cannot realistically be considered ‘a catchment of Newton Stewart’.

“With such a small population, there is a concern that an out-of-town supermarket with petrol filling station will devastate the town centre and threaten many small businesses which have their roots in the community.

As well as three supermarkets, Newton Stewart also has an independent grocery store and a specialist greengrocer.

“We find it hard to believe that there is enough food shopping business to accommodate another major retailer without impacting on existing jobs,” said Mr Jeal.

“We would therefore question the claim that 150 new jobs would be created as we feel there is a real danger that many jobs will be lost elsewhere in the town. In addition, the Chamber is keen to avoid seeing what’s happened to many High Streets up and down the country - empty shops and not much else. Newton Stewart is simply not big enough to absorb the impact of this.

“Whilst we are not against inward investment - far from it - this cannot be at the expense of existing local businesses (or our town centres) whose interests the Chamber will always put first and foremost.

“Furthermore, we have Sainsbury’s, Aldi and the Co-operative and because they are in the town centre, not outside it, it can be argued that they act as a magnet for shoppers to come into to Newton Stewart because of the wider offering they bring.

“We will talk to any member business face-to-face to gain more detailed information to be included in our representations to the planning department, something which cannot be successfully done at a public meeting. It’s important to learn what impact these plans could have on specific businesses in order to formulate an evidence-based response. Public meetings simply create a ‘feel good factor’ but little else.”

Letters have been circulated by the Chamber to businesses along Victoria and Albert Street most affected by the proposals.

The Chamber is keen to hear from any businesses in Newton Stewart that wish to input into a detailed response being prepared for the Planning Committee. Businesses that wish to take part, should contact the Chamber on 01671 403875 or email info@wigtownshire.org.