THERE was real anger evident when Newton Stewart retailers confronted the team behind plans for a new out-of-town supermarket this week.
At a meeting organised by Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce, traders in the town said they feared for their livelihoods if the project goes ahead.
They were united in opposition to the proposal for the 30,000 sq ft development at Barnkirk which would see the construction of a store more than twice the size of the Sainsbury’s outlet in the town. Rounding on James Harbison, from developers CWP, the local businessmen and women predicted that the new supermarket would result in the closure of many existing shops.
“You might as well put a gate at each end of Newton Stewart and close it off if the supermarket goes ahead,” said one trader. “This supermarket will wipe out Newton Stewart,” added another.
The traders put forward vociferous opposition to the plans following a presentation by Mr Harbison during which he outlined the case for the development. In addition to being highly critical of the plans as presented, many of the retailers suggested CWP should look at alternative sites in the town centre.
The retailers argued that a new supermarket on the periphery would undermine all members of the retail sector in the high street.
“This will put us out of business,” said Duncan Vincent, of Galloway Angling Centre. “A lot of people will lose out big time … and we’ll lose our houses as well as our businesses.”
John Dobson, of Creebridge Filling Station, said he feared a fuel facility at the supermarket would undercut the three current providers. “In Stranraer, they got a supermarket and cheaper fuel. Then the local filling station closed and they put up the price,” he said. He added that the ability of the big chains to offer reductions in the price per litre gave the supermarkets an unfair advantage. “We can compete on straight forward prices but we can’t on discounted fuel,” he said.
Butcher Kenny Owen said: “People here have a choice of four supermarkets already. If this one goes ahead everyone will suffer and probably be driven to the wall.”
Mr Harbison had told the meeting that the supermarket – either Asda, Tesco or Morrisons – would provide 100 full-time equivalent jobs and around 60 building jobs during the construction, but those listening questioned his assertion. “I do not believe for one moment there will be 100 full-time equivalent jobs,” said Mr Dobson.
And Kenny Dawson, of the Riverbank cafe, asked: “Which local construction firms have you approached? You won’t get 60 construction workers from this area. When Sainsbury’s was built the workers were from south of the border.”
Mr Dobson summed up the traders’ feelings when he said: “This plan should fail for so many reasons.” And another person at the meeting added: “We don’t need more food. We don’t need more petrol. We don’t need more coffee shops.”
Despite the opposition from retailers, there remains strong support for the plan from many local people. The Galloway Gazette’s Facebook page has been a platform for many comments on the issue, most of which back the development.
On Wednesday, Chick Higgins wrote: “Really can’t see why local businesses and the future supermarket are locking horns. Newton Stewart needs to be brought into 21st century. It will be good for the area. It’s got a better variety of deals on food, clothing, fuel, household goods.
“This can only be a great thing waiting to happen. Families will benefit from it, with the cost of living and feeding your family rising every week or month.”
Katie Hagmann disagreed: “Are people seriously thinking any new supermarket is going to be cheaper than Aldi? I’m yet to be convinced that a large supermarket is going to be cheaper for fuel having seen more expensive fuel in Stranrear and Dumfries at the larger supermarkets. Clothing is an issue, but is one supermarket going to solve that?”